NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Harry Rilling shared news with the Democratic Town Committee on Monday:
- Feds award $79 million grant for the Walk Bridge
- What happened to the Equity and Justice for All Commission?
- Looking to keep SoNo restaurants open
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) “have been able to secure a $79 million grant for the Walk Bridge,” Rilling said. “So that’s going to tremendously cut into the amount of money that Connecticut’s going to have to pay.”
“Connecticut has been awarded more than $144 million from the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program to help fund the replacement of the Walk Bridge in Norwalk and the Connecticut River Bridge between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook,” a Friday press release said.
It’s “urgently needed funding,” Blumenthal is quoted as saying, calling the Walk Bridge and Connecticut River Bridge “vital structures that have long outlived their intended lifespans.”
The 124-year-old Walk Bridge, the railroad bridge over the Norwalk River, is expected to be replaced with a two-span, vertical lift bridge. It’s been said that the bridge replacement itself will cost $511 million, but the Walk Bridge website states this figure is being updated.
“The estimated funding projection for the Program is 40% federal and 60% state funds, which includes approximately $161 million of federal funds from a Superstorm Sandy Infrastructure Resiliency grant,” the website states, a phrase that’s been around for years.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called the new grant funding a “big deal for Connecticut” in the release.
It’s $79.7 million in federal funds for the bridge replacement, “including supporting rehabilitation work on the bridge approach embankments and retaining walls, installation of new catenary structures, and signal system upgrades,” the release said.
“The Walk Bridge is a critical juncture for commerce traveling along the East Coast,” Himes is quoted as saying. “But, for too long, we’ve been trying to accommodate a 21st Century economy with 19th Century technology. Securing these funds has been a top priority of ours because we need critical infrastructure investment to keep Connecticut thriving and competitive for years to come.”
Where’s the Equity/Justice Commission?
People have been asking about the “Equity and Justice for All Commission” announced in June, Rilling noted.
Norwalk sent out an RFP (request for proposals) and got 25 inquiries, “but when all was said and done, we only got two responses. After we looked at those two responses, we didn’t feel that either one of them met our needs,” Rilling told the DTC.
“So we reached out to the other people that made inquiries, but didn’t respond,” he continued. “The reason they didn’t respond, unfortunately, they were all asking pretty much the same question. ‘How much money do you have to spend?’ And I don’t like to answer that question. Because if we say we have $500,000, we’re going to get everybody’s going to come in around 495-499.”
Norwalk has gone out to bid with “a ballpark figure range,” he said. “We expect that we will be getting a quick turnaround time. I have a team put together that are going to go over the solicitations, we’ll look at the applications. And then they’ll get narrowed down.”
Outdoor dining this winter?
The administration is working toward keeping restaurants open through the winter on Washington Street and other areas, with outdoor dining, Rilling said.
It’s been said that Washington Street can’t close because of a new apartment building – The Pearl’s only access is on Washington Street.
“I had a conversation with (Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development) Jessica Casey and (Norwalk Chief of Staff) Laoise King today to figure out how we can close down more of Washington Street and still allow for the pearl to remain open,” Rilling said. “But we’re working on that.”