Now It’s The End Of 2013, They Claim
by Thomas MacMillan | Sep 13, 2012 11:38 am
Posted to: Transportation, Cedar Hill, East Rock
The latest estimates point to the State Street bridge staying closed until the end of 2013 and costing $10 million instead of $5 million—leading East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker to press the state in the meantime to help neighbors suffering from too much traffic, and businesses suffering from too little traffic.
Elicker did the pressing at a Wednesday evening neighborhood meeting between neighbors and city and state officials in the Wilbur Cross High School cafeteria. About a dozen people showed up to hear the latest news about the seemingly interminable reconstruction of the State Street bridge over the Mill River and to register their displeasure with the ongoing, extended closure.
The bridge has been closed since October 2010 for repairs that were initially predicted to take a year. The project has been beset by problems at every step. Earlier this year officials said the new redelayed reopening date would be March 2013, then October 2013. Wednesday the date creeped on to the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, some neighbors Wednesday evening claimed that traffic detours are turning their streets into bumper-to-bumper gridlock that’s impossible to navigate. Others complained about the opposite problem—a lack of cars passing by the commercial buildings they own on State Street.
Elicker (pictured) said two businesses have folded in the last month in the Cedar Hill neighborhood; he blamed the bridge closure, in part. He suggested a number of ways the state can try to make up for the adverse effect of the ongoing bridge blockage, including painting another nearby bridge and cleaning up nearby state property.
Brian Mercure, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation, promised to sit down with Elicker and city Engineer Dick Miller to talk over possible solutions.
If It’s Not One Thing, It’s A Dozen
Miller (pictured) kicked off the meeting with an explanation of just why the bridge is taking three times as long as it was predicted to and costing twice as much.
The bridge crosses over the Mill River and under I-91. It needed to be replaced because wooden pilings under the abutments needed to be replaced. In a deal among the city, state, and federal governments, the city paid for the design of a new bridge, and the state and federal government split the cost of construction 20/80.
Work began in May 2009; almost immediately there was trouble. The project unearthed some soil contamination that had to be addressed. Then it encountered a 42-inch water main that needed to be relocated.
In October 2010 the bridge was closed. The problems continued to bubble up, this time in the form of contaminated groundwater that had to be treated. And the pilings that were being installed came into conflict with footings for I-91.
All of these delays have added time and costs to the project. Each has required new designs, new tests, new authorizations. The project cost has ballooned from about $5 million to just over $10 million.
Most recently, workers drove test piles, to see how far down they’ll have to drive the 150 piles. They went down 237 feet. Pilings are paid for by the linear foot.
Miller said the cost to the city has increased by only about $60,000 for added design work.
Miller said the project has frustrated everyone involved,from neighbors to engineers.
“It’s been very emotional for me,” he said. Everyone has been working “extremely hard” to get the bridge built and open as fast as possible.
The good news, Mercure (pictured) said, is that the expected final design was finished in April, all the costs have been negotiated in a contract, and workers will start driving piles in October.
“There is no winter shutdown in this contract,” he said. “We will work all winter long.”
Too Many Cars
The new expected completion date is by the end of 2013, Mercure said. In the meantime, the state will be working hard to keep neighbors updated on progress with monthly missives and an expanded website, he said.
Mercure said the state will also make sure drivers are being properly notified by detour signs.
Most people are ignoring the posted detour route and using Willow Street, said Edward Pocengal, who lives there. Traffic is backed up in the evenings all the way from I-91 to Orange Street.
“That map is kind of a fantasy,” Pocengal (pictured) said of the detour route map. “Don’t fool yourselves.”
Miller said the detour was designed to minimize the impact on neighborhoods.
Pocengal said it’s not working. “Sometimes I can’t get out of my driveway for 20 minutes,” he said.
Mercure suggested the city could look at the timing of traffic lights to see if that might improve traffic flow. Elicker later said he would look into it by contacting city traffic-light whiz Bijan Notghi.
Make It Up To Us
Frank Proto of East Haven (pictured) owns 1031 State St., a property that he’s rented out to the owner of Maximum Automotive, a auto shop and used car lot. The “poor guy who rented it” used to see 6,000 cars pass by everyday, some of whose drivers might stop for sales or service, Proto said. Now he sees only a tiny fraction of that.
“This poor guy who rents it is getting slaughtered,” Proto said.
He said he lowered the rent by $300 “because I feel sorry for him.” At the same time, he’s seen a hike in his property taxes.
Proto said all the problems and solutions seem “logical” but “they should have been though out before you started all of this.”
Proto penned a plaintive letter to the editor about the plight of his property, published in the Register on Wednesday.
Cedar Hill has lost two stores in the last month because of a lack of business, Elicker said. “What can you do to make up for the negative impact on economic development?”
He said sidewalks nearby need to be repaired. And the Willow Street bridge over the Mill River needs a coat of paint, he said.
Mercure said the money from the project is coming through the South Central Regional Council of Governments, not the state. He said Miller could take the matter to that body.
“My part of this is administering the contract,” he said.
“The three of us should talk,” Elicker said. He said the CT Transit building nearby needs a new fence. That might be a project the state could take on, as a gesture to the neighborhood.
Mercure asked Elicker to draw up a list of such projects, and said he cang bring it to the state.
“Hopefully we’ll get through this together,” Miller said at the end of the evening. “It is an uncomfortable situation for all of us.”
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ya know what, I am saying it with no apology’s…. JESUS CHRIST!!!
They have nor do they care how we have fought for years in our area and to lose 2 GOOD places (not barber shops and drug fronts) BUT REAL VENDORS!!!
hmmm….why not ask why the government regulations are slowing things down so much? We should not tolerate government always working against residents and businesses.
Ridiculous and a complete hindrance to the revival that WAS happening up there.
This is why I have compassion for the people on the Hamden side of the Woodin Street Fence.
If I were those folks, I would demand the fence stay up until construction is completed on the New Haven side.
I realize that the same parties may not be responsible for construction, but the cases are related. LOOK AT THAT MESS ON STATE STREET!!! for another year? And How’s Trumbull Street lookin’?
Just “GET IT DONE” and people will stop complaining and we can get on with our lives.
The real problem is the City, State, Fed split.
There are way to many people involved for a bridge that was originally built in 2 months and lasted 40 years. In the same time they have been fumbling with this we have seen a 5 span suspension bridge built over the Q river.
Everyone needs to Cowboy up and get it done.
Thanks Justin for trying to get concessions.
is it too simplistic to request that we take some of the $40 Billion per month that the Fed has just committed to printing and pay some of the 23 Million people who are out of work and pour resources into this project and get it done ASAP. With that can of money and manpower, more equipment could be rented and more shifts worked. It seems that those working on the project have little incentive to finish on time and within budget. In fact, it seems just the opposite. (see Trumbull St)
It’s sad that we lost the little pizza joint on State St in Cedar Hill. They hung on for quite a while but with the drastic lack of traffic, they could not make enough to pay their taxes.