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Norwalk Needs Two Structures To Replace Aging Walk Bridge For Trains

Officials discussed the Walk Bridge project at two public meetings Wednesday evening. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky
One design for a replacement Walk Bridge calls for a 170-foot vertical lift structure. Photo Credit: Contributed
Another proposal for a replacement Walk Bridge calls for a 240-foot vertical lift structure. Photo Credit: Contributed
Officials are calling for "corrective action" for Norwalk's aging Walk Bridge. Photo Credit: Contributed

NORWALK, Conn. — The replacement for the aging Walk Bridge, which carries trains over the Norwalk River, could be twice as nice when completed — and double the trouble while under construction.

That's because every option for replacing the swing bridge calls for two independent structures, officials said at a public meeting in Norwalk on Wednesday evening.

While the current bridge carries four tracks on a single structure, all of the current proposals to replace the bridge call for two separate structures that would carry two tracks each.

“So if there’s an issue with one of the two tracks, the other two tracks work,” said Supervising Engineer John Hanifin of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “That’s an important requirement.”

At the meeting, officials presented five different options for a bridge replacement, including two bascule designs and two vertical lift designs. One structure would be built before the other during the construction process, officials said.

The current structure, which carries Metro-North, Amtrak and freight trains over the Norwalk River, is nearly 120 years old.

“One can say that its had a pretty good life,” HNTB Senior Project Manager Chris Brown said. “And, in fact, it continues to serve its function of carrying passenger rail service, freight rail service and even accommodating waterway users.”

But the bridge, which swings open for marine traffic and then closes, has faced “operational issues,” officials said.

The aging bridge malfunctioned twice in 2014, failing to close properly and stranding hundreds of Metro-North riders along the New Haven Line and causing delays, complaints and headaches.

Transportation officials had considered fully rehabilitating the bridge in addition to the replacement options.

The 4:30 p.m. meeting, which was the first of two held at City Hall, attracted a sizable audience. Mayor Harry Rilling said the large turnout shows how important the project is to the city.

Rilling said officials are working to ensure that the community, including small business owners, will face the least impact possible from the bridge construction.

“It’s a very, very complex project that has a lot of moving parts,” Rilling said. “But I think with coordinating and working together, we can make sure that it has a minimal impact on our community. And that is really what we’re all about."

The Walk Bridge carries 200 trains and 125,000 passengers over the Norwalk River each day. It's one of the oldest movable bridges on the Northeast Corridor, according to the project's website.

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