Metro-North Seeks Federal Funds To Replace Aging Bridge In Norwalk

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Metro-North will be seeking federal funds to replace the walk bridge in Norwalk that has malfunctioned twice in the last two weeks.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Metro-North will be seeking federal funds to replace the walk bridge in Norwalk that has malfunctioned twice in the last two weeks. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Metro-North will seek federal funds to replace the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, which has malfunctioned twice in the last two week and caused significant travel delays for train commuters across Fairfield County.

The bridge, which was built in 1896, is designed to swing out to allow marine traffic to pass through Norwalk Harbor. The bridge has become stuck in an open position twice recently when the rails failed to close properly.

The bridge was last rehabbed in 1992. Designs for a rehabilitation project were suspended in 2008, and no additional investment was made, Malloy said. The state and Metro-North will be seeking $369 million to replace the bridge, with an additional $100 million provided by the state.

"What we're talking about is a replacement with a lift structure as opposed to a turn structure," Malloy said in a press conference Monday. "This thing should have been done a long, long time ago, and certainly should never have been dropped in 2008."

In addition to the aging technology, the bridge is also in danger of being hit during high storm conditions and knocking out train service for Metro-North and Amtrak, he said.

The bridge is opened five to six times per week to allow marine traffic through, Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti said. Although it was designed to be opened up by a couple of people, it now requires 30 to 40 people to mechanically jack up the rails to allow the bridge to swing, Giulietti said.

"We apologize for the inconvenience this caused," he said. "We've done everything to support the public on this, and we will continue to do that, and that's why we're putting as much resources as we can into this."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working with the state so that resources are in place to accommodate the opening and closing of the bridge, MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said. 

"This is not something we can just replace easily overnight," Prendergast said. "We're going to expedite the replacement of the bridge. In the interim, [we will] try to reduce the frequency of openings, and when we do open it have a very, very robust procedure in place to increase the reliability of its opening and closing, and seek outside expert help to be able to do that."

The Connecticut Department of Transportation and the MTA will also conduct an operational review of procedures for the bridge, with the goal of delivering findings by mid-July.

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I'm sure the grant application and the state appropriation will be well documented, but $469 million seems like a lot for that bridge.