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New Snafu Delays Bridge Reopening Yet Again
by Melissa Bailey | Aug 12, 2013 2:39 pm
Posted to: Transportation, Cedar Hill, East Rock, Goatville, Upper State Street
Frustrated business owners will have to wait another year until their customers can reach them via the State Street bridge, thanks to yet another delay in a years-long construction project at the Mill River.
The bridge that takes State Street over the river won’t reopen until next summer, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) announced in a “status update” distributed Monday by email by East Rock Alderwoman Jessica Holmes.
The new date is three years after the original expected completion date. The continued delays have hurt businesses on upper State Street, caused traffic problems, and created a “dead space” that has attracted crime, according to Holmes.
“It feels like eternity,” said waitress Medhapond Jaouchaiyakul.
From her post at the Rice Pot restaurant, she sees a daily parade of confused drivers blow past the “Road Closed” signs, then make U-turns where State Street dead-ends at the Mill River, just past Lawrence Street.
No matter how much time elapses, she said, “it has not reduced the amount of confusion” among drivers.
Rice Pot owner Roger Jaouchaiyakul said the bridge has not affected most customers, who arrive at the restaurant from East Rock or lower State Street. Out-of-town customers, however, get thrown off by their GPS devices when they try to reach the restaurant via the State Street exit off of I-91.
The bridge has been closed since October 2010, set to be replaced due to structural problems. Work was supposed to take one year, according to the DOT. Due to a litany of problems, the state last year revised its completion date to the “end of 2013.”
Here’s how the state explained the delays in its status report, dated Aug. 2:
The state hired C.J. Fucci, Inc in April 2009 to replace the bridge. The project called for removing structural supports that held up the old bridge, and replacing them with a single-span bridge of “precast concrete beams.” As part of the project, the road on both sides needed to be reconstructed to create two 10-foot lanes in each direction.
Work began in May 2009 and immediately hit a roadblock: Workers discovered they needed to relocate a 42-inch water main owned by the Regional Water Authority to make sure it wasn’t damaged by the construction work. Workers had to halt the bridge project while they moved the water main.
The water main was out of the way by September 2010, and the bridge closed in October 2010. Demolition and reconstruction was supposed to take a year.
But after the bridge was closed, C.J. Fucci encountered another problem in February 2011: An original plan to create a “cofferdam” to divert water from the work area didn’t work out as workers had hoped. There was a “conflict” with the piles supporting the I-91 bridge, which passes over State Street right at the river.
The next problem arose in June 2011. As soon as workers started digging, they discovered the groundwater was contaminated and needed to be treated. Again, the bridge work was put on hold. The state completely redesigned the plans for the abutments, this time using steel piles (or poles).
Workers tested out driving the new steel piles into the riverbed in July 2012. The contractor bought the new piles and began to drive them into the western riverbank in January 2013.
Again, workers hit a problem: When they started driving the piles, they noticed the vibrations were causing nearby structures—including the supports for the I-91 bridge—to “settle.”
“The settlement was a very serious issue” because of the danger posed to I-91, the DOT wrote in its status update.
Work halted again as the state went back to the drawing board. Workers had to shut down a water line and figure out how to drive the piles without causing the interstate to collapse. The state decided on a new solution: Ditch the steel piles and go with “micro piles,” which are drilled—not hammered—into the ground.
As of Aug. 2, C.J. Fucci was “coordinating” with a subcontractor on plans to drill in the new micro piles. C.J. Fucci is revising its projected timeline for review by the state.
Meanwhile, the state offered this preliminary forecast: Workers will finish drilling the micro piles in the spring of 2014.
The bridge would then reopen to traffic in “mid-summer of 2014”—“barring any further complications.” The entire project would be finished by the fall of 2014.
News of the delays rippled down State Street Monday morning.
Bryan Smallman, who runs a woodworking shop at 1041 State St., pronounced himself “disappointed” in the latest delays.
He said the poor signage has left drivers continually driving past his shop, only to U-turn when they hit a dead end.
As if on cue, three cars in a row blew by his shop a few minutes later, hit the dead end, and retreated.
The dead-end has created a dead space that attracts crime, he said. Thieves recently broke into the former Star Supply warehouse with power tools and ladders and stole copper pipes, he said.
Two businesses have folded on the other side of the bridge, in the Cedar Hill neighborhood, in part due to the bridge closure, according to East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker.
Fred Walker (pictured with his wife and business partner, Patricia Walker) said his business has suffered “substantially” from the construction work.
Walker said walk-in business to his restaurant has dropped off. And catering customers, who tend to be “affluent older women,” have trouble with the detours: The signs send them down James Street, under the dark Lombard Street bridge, which can be “scary” after dark, he said.
Walker said he toured the construction site with the contractor just two months ago. He said it helped to know the reason behind some of the delays.
But “I’m still not happy,” he said. “It’s taking forever.”
“This kind of stuff happens,” he said of the construction snafus. “But it doesn’t seem like there’s any sense of urgency.”
Alderwoman Holmes, who represents the area, said neighborhood complaints have included extra exhaust and traffic due to U-turners and detours; businesses suffering a drop in customers; and increased crime around the river.
Drivers who want to head up State Street to the Cedar Hill neighborhood, or to the Hamden DMV, now have to go through confusing detours, she noted.
Holmes said in a recent tour, she encountered trash from people doing drugs down by the river. Homeless people have been camping down by the river. The problems didn’t start with the construction work, she said, “but having the bridge be closed just exacerbates those problems.”
State DOT officials couldn’t be reached Monday to respond to neighborhood frustrations. Holmes said she plans to set up a neighborhood meeting in late September or early October to discuss the project.
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I was upset but now I realize there were a series of difficult problems which have hampered this project. I wish DOT made a better effort to inform us all what these delays were.
posted by: Josh Levinson on August 12, 2013 3:02pm
I understand not every issue can be well-considered ahead of time, but this is absolutely ridiculous. How did nobody know about a water main in the way? Or consider the possibility of groundwater contamination? Surely someone has to be held accountable—not trying to play the blame game, but this just seems like an endless number of snafus and excuses, and this bridge has been shut down forever. It’s crazy.
Last time I was down at The Pantry, there were a group of young men sitting on the stoop of the grocery across the street, drinking beers. Just right in the open.
For this delay, the bridge better be a work of art with beautifully paving and pristine new sidewalks leading up to for at least a few hundred feet..
The George Washington bridge took 48 months to build and its about a mile long.
39 months is the same period of time it took to build the Sears Tower in Chicago.
The Empire State Building took 13 months.
Is anyone else embarrassed?
If only we had someone representing our city to the State who could push these issues. Who’s been our Senator while this project has dragged on for eternity? Looney, huh. Who’s his pick for Mayor again?
Even money says next summer, they say “next summer”.
I’ll coin this one right now:
“The no-bridge to somewhere boondoggle”
I wonder if it’s the same people responsible for building those condos along the canal trail for which the sign proclaims “Coming in 2009!”.
Robn, I’m thinking the same way. As a point of reference, how long did it take start to finish to build 360 State, which is how many stories high? And this is a two lane maybe sixty-foot bridge? Are only the most time-consuming design choices being made?
This is the same state that took 7 years to add one highway lane along 7 miles of highway. Anybody really surprised at this clusterlove isn’t paying attention.
Can we get a 3rd-party audit of this project?
This seems like a LOT of surprise issues to uncover.
Did the developer do an adequate job of inspecting the site before starting work?
On a personal note, I really don’t agree with the use of SNAFU in newspaper articles, let alone headlines. I assume editors understand what the term stands for which makes it even more confusing. “Daddy what does SNAFU stand for?” “Well son, it means situation normal, all… uh, nevermind.”
Sigh…so sad to read this. As a Nicoll St. resident, I was really REALLY looking forward to less detour traffic racing down our street to get to Willow and back to the highway. With East Rock Magnet School opening back up this fall, I am now concerned about increased congestion and safety for the kids.
I get that stuff comes up in the course of any construction job, but this does seem exceptionally delayed on its face (I am not an expert). As a daily commuter though on I-91, I guess I can be grateful the highway won’t cave in. *knock on wood* I heard the tamping of steel piles from the highway for awhile there; are they sure they didn’t cause damage after all?
posted by: kimwim on August 14, 2013 8:42pm
It took 14 months to build the Empire State Building. This is ridiculous.
posted by: kimwim on August 14, 2013 8:44pm
“On a personal note, I really don’t agree with the use of SNAFU in newspaper articles, let alone headlines. I assume editors understand what the term stands for which makes it even more confusing. “Daddy what does SNAFU stand for?” “Well son, it means situation normal, all… uh, nevermind.””
Just use what my dad taught me. Situation Normal, All Fouled Up” ;-)
I opine that SNFU, FUBAR, and MILF are vulgar, and do not belong in these pages. Saying so is problematic, because to post this comment is to use acronyms that are vulgar.
New construction is, as a rule, faster and easier than old work. That said, this seams to be calling out for Harvard Business School to do as a case study in how not to run a project.
Also, I agree with Elm City on SNAFU.
Finally, in a city know for good Thai food, I find Rice Pot to be one of the best. (I have been to Thailand twice.)
This situation is totally unacceptable. Are the people involved professionals or is this Amateur Hour? Is this the first bridge these people have ever built? We know that the cost of this project has skyrocketed, although I understand that this is not a consideration since it’s taxpayers’ money and is therefore unlimited. And finally, has anyone lost their job because of this demonstration of incompetence? In the private sector heads would roll; in the public sector, however, the people responsible for this probably have been kicked upstairs.