City Plans To Fix 4 Bridges For $4.4M
by Allan Appel | Sep 12, 2012 11:33 am
Posted to: Transportation, Downtown, West Rock
Resting on a sidewalk after class, Gateway student Eve Calamita didn’t know she sat beside a bridge and atop a quarter-mile tunnel. Or that the bridge needs shoring up.
The George Street bridge doesn’t look like a bridge but rather like just another paved section of the street between Church and Temple. However it spans a section of the Church Street tunnel system 15 feet below.
It and a similar section of Crown Street—which also spans the tunnel system that used to be the underground service entrance for trucks delivering to Macy’s and Malley’s department stores—are two of four bridges the city is seeking state money to help repair.
Tuesday night the City Services and Environmental Services Committee of the Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to authorize the city to apply for the money to help offset the costs of repairing or replacing these structures.
The two other bridges in need of repair, or possibly replacement, are rural by comparison to the downtown spans. They both cross a small stream in the wooded area of West Rock. One is near the curving intersection of Wilmot and Wintergreen, the other on Brookside Avenue just in from Wilmot a half a block before the entry rotary of the revitalized Brookside development.
Both bridges span Wintergreen Brook and the culverts beneath them that handle high water and storm run-off.
None of the bridges is in crisis or emergency, but all are around 50 years old.
“The bridges are not going to fall down. There are defects. These need attention,” said City Engineer Dick Miller, who made a presentation Tuesday night before the committee. He sought the committee’s approval to apply for the state money, which Miller said would secure the four spans for another 50 years.
Tuesday night’s committee approval means the resolutions will go before the full Board of Aldermen for final approval.
The four bridges are all city-owned and maintained, and repairs are largely on the “city’s nickel,” to use Miller’s phrase. However, he has located some potential money to help out in the state Department of Transportation’s Local Bridge Program. This program provides up to one third the cost, to be paid for by the state, and municipalities such as New Haven often are able to maximize that, Miller said.
In the case of the Wilmot bridge, the funding source would federal, to cover up to 80 percent of the cost.
Should the state money be forthcoming, work can begin next year. Typically bridge repair work in the city takes between two and three years, Miller said. Of the four bridges, only the work at George Street might involve inconvenience to drivers on the surface, he said.
Repairing Two Tunnel Bridges
The city has 50 bridges. “Some of them you don’t even know if it’s a bridge,” Miller said referring to the blocks of George and Crown that span the underground tunnels between Temple and Church.
He said that state Department of Transportation inspects all bridges 20 feet or greater on a semi-annual basis, rates them, and provides a “watch list.” In addition, the city does its own inspections. Miller said that the excavation for the buildings at the new downtown Gateway Community College campus provided an opportunity to see up close what needed to be done.
In the case of the George Street section, shoring up some of the concrete supports where the tunnel joins the Temple Street garage is a prime focus of the work. So is replacing a ventilation system that currently uses grates visible on the surface of the road. When the repairs are complete, the grates will be gone. Some initial design work was done at the time of the Gateway digging. Total estimated cost for the George Street bridge is $1.2 million, with the state picking up $391,000 and the city the balance.
The prime concern under the Crown Street bridge are concrete box beams that are showing cracks and need to be repaired. Total cost is $1.2 million with one third, about $367,000, paid for by the state, two thirds by the city.
At Tuesday night’s hearing, East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker and Hill Alderwoman Jacqueline James-Evans both pressed Miller. They asked whether in the longer term some of the cost of repairs and maintenance of the tunnel and its bridges should not be born by Gateway Community College, the Omni Hotel, and other businesses that utilize the tunnels. They asked to see copies of agreements the city has with the property owners.
Miller said he would produce the agreements for the committee’s review. But he cautioned that easements or agreements—in addition to the bridge work, the city lights, sweeps, and increasingly pumps water out of the tunnel—are often passed from owner to owner. So it may take some work to track them down.
The quarter-mile tunnel was built in the early 1960s and is technically a city right of way or a street, Miller said.
“Why should it be a cost taxpayers incur when they are not using the tunnel?” James asked.
The Bridges over Wintergreen Brook
Both the bridges in West Rock that span the brook are of the concrete-box culvert type. Although final decisions have not yet been made, Miller said he leans toward replacing, not repairing, both these bridges.
In both instances the size of the culverts may not be sufficient to handle heavy post-storm runoffs. The Water Pollution Control Authority pipes currently there “impede flow especially when [there are] storm conditions,” Miller said.
The cost at Brookside is approximately $1.1 million. Because the housing authority is a partner in the infrastructure upgrade,as is the WPCA (whose sewer and water lines go through the culvert) with state backing, the cost to the city will be approximately $207,000, according to Miller.
The size of the culvert at the scenic bridge over the brook at Wilmot and Wintergreen is also a concern, said Miller. For technical reasons having to do with its being a culvert bridge and less than 20 feet, this project is eligible for federal funding. If the request is successful, that will mean the federal contribution will be $830,000 and the city share $100,00.
The city’s contribution to all four projects’ design and construction will take part over the the next two to three fiscal years, with the moneycoming out of the engineering department’s operational and capital budgets reflected in the annual budget process.
For a city New Haven’s size Miller said the 50 bridges add up to a complex infrastructure; none of these four projects is routine. “If we fail to do our due diligence and something happens, if you don’t pay attention, you may have to close a bridge,” Miller said.
On his watch the Blake Street bridge over West River had to be closed back in 1997. The Ferry Street bridge was closed in 2002 and did not have its glorious reopening until 2008.
Tags: bridges, Dick Miller
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posted by: Josh Levinson on September 12, 2012 11:41am
Let’s hope they do a better job than they have with the bridge on State Street, which feels like it’s already been closed for several years.
There is a public meeting to discuss the State Street Bridge, where ConnDOT (who is managing the project - not the City) will be explaining the new timeline and answering any questions. The meeting is tonight at 5:15pm at Wilbur Cross cafeteria.
If anyone is interested in learning much more about the 49 City bridges, go to:
I need to add the last two quarterly reports, and will try to get to that soon.
- Rob Smuts, Chief Administrative Officer