Bridge #03094 To Get Some Love

Thomas Breen photoMiddeltown Avenue Bridge isn’t falling down. But steel reinforcement is on the way so it never gets to that point.

Unlike other spans named after war veterans or other local heroes, this one doesn’t have a name. The state Department of Transportation (DOT) calls it Bridge #03094.

But it serves an important purpose: carrying highway traffic between Exit 7 and Exit 8 on I-91, above the railroad tracks.

State transit officials plan on rehabbing the 53-year-old bridge next year. The bridge, which was last rehabbed in 1999 and currently suffers from steel section loss and perforations to its structural support beam ends, will be repaired with steel plating and a new type of concrete that can bear over six times the pressure of traditional concrete, according to state DOT spokesperson Kevin Nursick.

“The bridge is very much safe,” Nursick stated in an email message. “But it is aging and needs work (as is typical), hence our project.”

The DOT expects the bridge rehab project to begin next April and to be completed in August 2020.

According to a bridge report released by the DOT on July 20, the department estimates the project to cost $7.8 million in total. The vast majority of that money, around $7.02 million, will come from the federal government. The remaining $780,000 will be paid by the state.

A recent visit to the dusty, junkyard-strewn stretch of Middletown Avenue near the bridge revealed a relatively unremarkable stretch of highway. Flecks of brown speckle the steel support beams under the bridge, reflecting the metal’s steady corrosion after decades of weathering the elements beneath a steady stream of highway traffic.

A green tangle of shrubs, bushes and trees climbs down a short bank from the bridge to the railroad tracks, which rumbles to attention a few times an hour whenever an Amtrak train comes driving through.

According to city land records, state DOT Commissioner James Redeker and state Director of Rights of Way Terrence Obey filed a certificate of condemnation on July 27 for a 5,411-square-foot junkyard lot adjacent to the bridge.

The certificate notes that the state put a temporary construction easement on the property for the purpose of storing materials and equipment over the course of the bridge rehabilitation project.

The certificate states that the easement will be extinguished upon competition of the project, and that the state will reset existing concrete blocks and grading and any other areas disturbed by construction.

According to the state Superior Court’s database, the state paid $8,120 in damages for the temporary construction easement to the property’s owner, Roxanne Ackerson, through her holding company 159 Middletown Avenue LLC.

Ackerson is the co-director of Chuck and Eddie’s Used Auto Parts, a junkyard just a few hundred feet up the road at 190 Middletown Ave., along with Charles and James Arcangelo.

Ackerson and the Arcangelos did not respond to requests for comment on how the property was used before the easement. The plot itself is an empty, unpaved dirt lot separated from Middletown Avenue by a metal grate fence.

“We are performing steel repairs using steel plating and Ultra High Performance concrete (UHPC),” Nursick stated about the details of the planned rehabilitation for Bridge #03094, which was built in 1965. He said the repairs will also include concrete deck and substructure repairs, the placement of a new waterproofing membrane and bituminous overlay, and the replacement of the expansion bearings with elastomeric bearings.

“The use of UHPC to perform steel strengthening is a new technique studied by UConn,” he wrote. “The strengthening restores the capacity of the beam by creating a concrete column at the beam ends to transfer the load in the web of the beam to the bearings.”

He said UHPC can have compressive strengths nearing 29 thousand pounds per square inch (psi). He said traditional concrete can bear only around four thousand psi.

Nursick said the project could result in some lane closures. The department will have more details on the expected impact to daily use of the bridge when a construction plan is in place.

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posted by: JCFremont on August 6, 2018  9:06am

#03094 pretty much describes it. Here’s a thought, how about we name it for John DeStefano? Why not heck he did set the record for being reelected it aught at least get his name on something. Old #03094 would be perfect for John. Stable, rather plain no lights or pillars, most time you don’t even realize your on a bridge. The D and The Q! I just hope this won’t become a replay of the delays and cost overruns on the State Street Bridge.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on August 6, 2018  1:15pm

I wonder what they got the name “03093” from? but I’d hope that in the near future the bridge would get a new makeover like both the Q-Bridge and the West River Bridge did. The bridge has pretty much reached it’s limit and it has clearly ran its course over the past 50 years. For traffic to flow better there should be an extra lane in both direction if the bridge ever gets done over. I think naming the bridge after John DeStefano isn’t a bad idea. DeStefano is a New Haven native who been around for a long time and did a lot of good things as the city’s mayor.

posted by: Cove'd on August 6, 2018  5:57pm

This makes me think about the possibility someday that I-91 within New Haven, say between the Quinnipiac River and Long Wharf, could at some time in the future be converted to an urban boulevard.  Seems pie in the sky at first, but its been done elsewhere before and cities such as Syracuse for example are seriously looking right now at doing it—- taking out I-81 through their city center and re-establishing a “community grid”:

https://www.syracuse.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/07/lets_unite_syracuse_replace_i-81_with_a_community_grid_editorial.html#incart_big-photo

http://rethink81.org/vision/vision-images

There are a lot of positives that could come about from such a major change.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on August 6, 2018  7:13pm

_quinnchionn_, Say’s Law (supply creates its own demand) is dubious economics, but is true for highway engineering. Building additional lanes induces demand, i.e., more vehicles use a road after it is widened. In time, the level of congestion reverts to the prior level. I’m all in favor of repairing infrastructure before it starts to fall apart, but not adding more lanes. And then there is the minor matter of paying for the expansion.

posted by: 1644 on August 8, 2018  11:19am

Cove: Syracuse already has a ring road.

posted by: Cove'd on August 8, 2018  4:20pm

CT has its fair share of limited-access-highway network redundancy as well, especially for long-distance/through-state and intra-state travel.  One example is I-95/I-395 versus I-95/I-91/I-84.  For more local/regional travel, some folks would certainly end up re-routing via other streets in addition to the traffic that would simply continue along what could become the urban boulevard.  Hypothetical thinking my friend.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on August 8, 2018  5:59pm

@Cove’d

If I-91 ended up being turned into an urban boulevard then it would basically be like Route 34 all over again. I’m not sure if it would be a good thing or a bad thing, but the fact of the matter is that there’s well over 50,000 vehicles that uses I-91 just to get to I-95 every single day. If that’s the case of transforming an actual highway into a boulevard then there should have been a ring road built that goes around New Haven just to make it easier to get around the city.

posted by: Cove'd on August 8, 2018  7:36pm

I hear you, and who knows how it would play out, but it’s worth really looking into.  I’d image some peripheral road ‘improvements’ might need to go along with an urban boulevard.  Such as as a better direct connection between I-91 and the parkway in/around North Haven.  And Route 34 is far from perfect but it will turn out better than the highway connector it once was.  This is more than about traffic - many acres of developable land would be gained back where ramps and embankments are now.  And undoubtedly this wouldn’t actually come to fruition for many years/decades when who knows if we’ll have tolling, autonomous cars, etc and what effects those may have.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on August 9, 2018  2:43am

@Cove’d

Not a bad point… but I always wondered why there was never a connector that connected the Merritt Parkway (Route 15) to I-84, I-91 and I-95 to at least give drivers easy access to get to New Haven from the western part of Connecticut. Truthfully, I think that I-495 in the Greater Washington D.C area is a perfect example of a connector that serves a great purpose for drivers to get around easier instead of them having no choice but to go only one way to get from Point A to Point B.

posted by: JCFremont on August 10, 2018  7:57am

@quinn. I believe the original plans for Routes 7, 25, and 34 where to connect 95-15 and up to 84, but the small towns stopped it because they didn’t want large 4 to 6 lane highways cutting through their towns so the only one that was completed was Route 8. @Cove I don’t think a major boulevard would work in New Haven if your looking at roads with tea kettle turns or even something like the Berlin Turnpike, Ella Grasso Blvd. isn’t exactly a booming commercial area best known for the flea market.

posted by: Cove'd on August 10, 2018  9:40am

@JCFremont - Definitely would not design it with tea-kettle turns/jug handles/etc.  Was thinking much more along the lines of this: https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/streets/boulevard/ .  In fact, left turns off the mainline at intersections likely would not work - Motorists turning off the urban boulevard concept would make right turns to find their way, not unlike what occurs now with today’s on/off ramps).  Obviously this type of design (https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/streets/boulevard/) is way outside of our state DOT’s expertise, but who know 10-20 years from now. 

And another key half to making this work would be getting the zoning right that would front along the ‘urban boulevard’.  Think of the benefits of this concept: more taxable land for infill development decades down the line for New Haven the a key economic generator of the state, a less intrusive motor vehicle facility cutting through the middle of the city - yet quite large volumes of traffic would still flow, a more aesthetically pleasing urban environment, and so on.