Rehabilitation work on bridges on North Main Street and Braeburn Road can move forward following approval of grants last week by the State Bond Commission.
By Ronni Newton
A total of $942,863 in grant money was approved by the State Bond Commission last week, funds that are earmarked for the repair of two West Hartford bridges that have had their conditions classified as “poor” by the Department of Transportation.
The grants-in-aid through the Local Bridge Program include $814,000 for work on the North Main Street over Trout Brook West Branch bridge just north of Wyndwood Road, and $128,863 for the bridge that carries Braeburn Road over Trout Brook located just east of the driveway to Braeburn Elementary School. Both projects were among the transportation projects that had their funding frozen by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in January.
“We’ve been trying to do this project for a number of years,” Town Engineer Duane Martin said of the North Main Street bridge. “I’ve expressed interest in doing this since 2010 when the first inspector said it was in poor condition.”
Martin said that there are no safety concerns with the bridge at this time, and a consultant hired to do a structural analysis said there are no concerns with walking or driving over it. “It’s structurally sound but it needs attention,” Martin said.
The town would have had to fund the entire bill for the rehabilitation, estimated to cost close to $2 million, but worked to get it accepted as a project that would receive state funds at a reimbursement level of about 50 percent. The town’s share of the work has already been set aside for several years in the Capital Improvement Fund, Martin said.
About 15,000 cars per day travel over the North Main Street bridge, which was constructed in 1901 and considered at the time to be state-of-the-art as one of Connecticut’s first concrete arch bridges. The bridge has had repairs made over the years, most recently in 2010, but the concrete has had significant deterioration and a major overhaul is now required, said Martin.
“We can’t do anything until we get the commitment letter from the state,” Martin said, but he expects that to be received sometime in the next month. The design work was completed while the town was awaiting the funding approval from the state, and once the commitment letter is received the project will go out to bid.
Martin said that a project of this scale would not begin in the winter, and it will likely commence in March or April of 2019, depending on the weather.
During the construction, half of the bridge will be worked on at a time so that one lane of North Main Street in each direction will be kept open along with a sidewalk on one side. A temporary traffic signal will be installed, Martin said, allowing pedestrians to safely cross the road and traffic from both Wyndwood Road and Linbrook Road to safely turn onto North Main Street. The signal will be removed once the work, estimated to take about 18 months, is completed.
Work on the Braeburn Road project is still awaiting some permitting, Martin said, and he expects the commitment letter from the state to be received in the next several months. Funding for the town’s share of the project is also budgeted in the Capital Improvement Fund, and the state is providing 50 percent of the cost.
That project, which involves rehabilitation of the culvert beneath Braeburn Road and installation of a new parapet that will allow the watercourse to be visible, should take about four months, Martin said. He said that the existing bridge and culvert were constructed in 1960.
Town Manager Matt Hart previously said that the twin metal culvert is “severely corroded with voids under and around the culvert creating stability concerns,” but like the North Main Street bridge is still deemed safe for vehicles and pedestrians.
“We want to do it in the summer as much as possible because it will take away a travel lane,” Martin said, which will create traffic issues since it’s right next to Braeburn Elementary School. The project will likely begin in mid-spring of 2019, he said.
Mayor Shari Cantor said she is very grateful to the State Bond Commission for approval of the grants for these projects.
“These are historical bridges that need attention, and it’s a significant investment that needs to be made,” Cantor said. “I am also very grateful to our delegation, especially State Rep. Derek Slap, for advocating for the money.”
Historical photos, plans for both bridges, and addition photos can be found below.
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