Simpaug bridge opening: Sandy being blamed for the new delay

The bridge on Simpaug Turnpike over Metro-North railroad tracks now won’t open until Nov. 28. Superstorm Sandy is being blamed for the latest delay in opening the bridge to traffic. —Bryan Haeffele photo

The opening of the bridge on Simpaug Turnpike has been delayed again, with Superstorm Sandy being blamed.

Jim Zaharevich, bridge project engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said the plant that makes the precast blocks for the parapets of the bridge was impacted by the storm. Because of this, he said, the bridge opening — which had been scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22 — won’t happen until the evening of Nov. 28.

The storm’s impact on the plant, which delayed completion of the blocks, caused a “domino effect,” he said. Asphalt plants close four days for the Thanksgiving holiday, so there could be no paving on Nov. 22 or 23, he said.

Paving had been scheduled Nov. 19 through Nov. 21. Now that work is slated for Nov. 26 through Nov. 28.

First Selectman Natalie Ketcham met with James Redeker, state Department of Transportation commissioner, on Oct. 23 to talk about the bridge project. At that time, there was a drainage issue requiring a state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection permit.

“He was aware of the drainage design and agreed to personally be involved to make sure the permit was expedited,” she said.

Ms. Ketcham said last week that she had requested that the commissioner come to Redding to see the bridge project in person and to talk about the schedule for opening it.

Recently no work has been going on at the bridge because the precast concrete molds that simulate rocks on both sides of the bridge’s walls are being done off-site. Once the walls are in place, Tom Lockwood of Concrete Rock Surfaces will stain the walls to look like rocks. This work could be finished after the bridge is open, said Mr. Zaharevich earlier. He also said the town’s historical society requested the stone look on the walls.

One wall of the bridge has been completed with these blocks, but there is one more section to do.

Mr. Zaharevich said the blocks will be delivered and installed over three days, Nov. 12 through Nov. 14, with final work completed by Nov. 16.

Mr. Zaharevich said the parapet block sits on a block under the pavement, so paving can’t be done until the block is in place. At that point, the parapet, or wall, would be packed in with dirt and stone. Then paving could begin.

Once the road is paved, Mr. Zaharevich said, remaining work will include landscaping. Some plants could be put in now, some will wait for spring. He said line striping might be done, but could also be done later.

If daytime weather is over 50 degrees, he said, this work could continue into the winter, but it can also be done next spring.

The state is overseeing and paying for the bridge replacement project, which began in October 2011. It was originally scheduled for completion per contract with the contractor, Rotha Contracting Co. of Avon, in July 2012.

Last year’s Tropical Storm Irene in August and the October snowstorm named Alfred caused delays, as did things like the need to relocate an outlet for a drainage pipe and excavating more dirt under the bridge than projected.

The cost of the state’s bridge project was estimated at $3.1 million. However, the project cost will increase by some $173,000 to cover the cost of removing the additional contaminated material, Mr. Zaharevich had said.

The bridge is over Metro-North rail lines that run along Simpaug Turnpike. The bridge is considered an “orphan bridge” by the state since its ownership is either lost or unspecified. The state DOT takes ownership for safety reasons.


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