Harbor Street Bridge Gets Makeover

Sally E. Bahner PhotoIt’s going to take a little longer to get to Parker Memorial Park and Branford Point in 2017 because of a proposed six-month project to replace the Harbor Street Bridge which was built in 1940..

“You’re going to be doing construction when everyone is heading to the beach and boats,” one woman said during an informational meeting last week. 

With PermissionPreliminary plans call for construction to start in April 2017 and end in the fall.  The bridge, which was built in 1940, spans Mill Creek where it flows into the Branford River.

Diana Stricker PhotoAbout 15 residents attended a meeting last week at Fire Headquarters with town engineer Janice Plaziak, and bridge engineer John Wengell of WMC consulting in Newington.

Wengell’s presentation lasted about 15 minutes, and a question and answer period lasted more than an hour. There were many complaints about closing the bridge in the summer months, and many comments and questions about the design of the bridge. The detour is less than two miles, but will affect people driving, walking or biking to Branford Point.

“It’s going to be an inconvenience, there’s no about it,” Plaziak said as she discussed the bridge replacement. “We will address as many concerns as we can, but there are some we can’t. It’s a bridge that has to be replaced or it’s gong to fall down.”

With PermissionThe proposed detour will utilize Maple, Lindsley and Stannard streets.  However, Plaziak said the detour may use Short Beach Road instead of Lindsley.  Harbor Street, including the bridge, has sidewalks which are heavily traversed in good weather. There are no sidewalks on Lindsley or Stannard.

A Tricky Intersection

Residents also pointed out the difficulty of maneuvering the intersection of Stannard, Harbor Street and Goodsell Point Road.

The Branford Yacht Club and the town’s boat launch are on Goodsell. The state is planning to close the Branford River Boat Launch soon for a reconstruction project that will last until fall. 

Plaziak said she will look at that intersection. She said construction work can hopefully be completed in less than six months, but the utility companies have to move utility connections and then replace them, which takes time. 

In response to comments about starting the work in the fall instead of spring, Plaziak said that would not allow enough time to complete the project and pave the road before winter.

With Permission“We’re still at the early phases of design,” Wengell said, explaining that the purpose of the meeting was to get reactions to the design and to listen to concerns.

Wengell said the estimated cost is about $1 million, and that the Branford’s share will be about 53 percent, with the state picking up the remainder. He said the size of the bridge will be very similar to the current one, but will utilize pre-cast components. There will still be sidewalks.

Since the bridge is in an historic district, plans call for using the existing stone masonry. “One of our goals is to utilize a lot of the stone that’s there,” Wengell said, adding that the stones will be split and then adhered to the face of the new bridge.

Wengell said he hopes to have final designs by October or November, and will need approvals from Branford’s Inland Wetlands Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Office of Long Island Sound Programs.

The area is in a flood plain and is subject to tidal surge during storms. Residents said high tides have been much higher in recent years than previously.

The Health of the Marshes

One woman asked what will happen to the marshes when construction is underway. She the marshes need to be kept healthy because they are important habitats and resources. Wengell said a 5-foot wide temporary bypass pipe will be installed to connect Mill Creek and the river during construction. 

The Branford Land Trust owns about 9 acres along Mill Creek near the bridge.

People asked if the area beneath the bridge could be widened to allow more flow between Mill Creek and the Branford River, and others asked about the possibility of installing floodgates.

“There’s a careful balance,” Plaziak said in regard to the flows. “We’ll be re-examining the hydraulics based on your comments.”

Sally E. Bahner PhotoThe engineers said they would be meeting with residents who live near the bridge to discuss easements. 

The design sketches and information about the project will be posted on the Engineering Department’s web site.

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