Ceremony officially opens Simpaug bridge

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday, Dec. 12, to officially open the Simpaug bridge. From left are First Selectman Natalie Ketcham, Jim Redeker, Connecticut Department of Transportation commissioner, State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26th District), and State Rep. John Shaban (R-135th District).

Town and state officials were present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Simpaug bridge Wednesday, Dec. 12, to officially declare it open.

First Selectman Natalie Ketcham, Jim Redeker, Connecticut Department of Transportation commissioner, state Rep. John Shaban (R-135th District), and state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26th District) were all present to cut the ribbon across the bridge.

The state Department of Transportation project replaced the bridge, ruled deficient after state inspections, and included the installation of new retaining walls, roadway reconstruction and minor drainage improvements.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mr. Redeker was available for questions at the Station House restaurant in West Redding.

“It’s important to be part of the community and listening. I appreciate customer service and I am glad to be here,” said Mr. Redeker.

Mr. Redeker said he was thrilled to see the project come to fruition, and in the end, the project fits well in the community.

Ms. Boucher commended Mr. Redeker on replacing the bridge.

“It should last for a century, I hope. It is usable, strong, safe and has a nice aesthetic quality. It took time, but it’ll be here much longer after us,” she said.

Mr. Shaban asked Mr. Redeker about small bridges and funding. Mr. Redeker said local bridges are eligible for state and federal funding.

He also said DOT has proposed giving money directly to municipalities to do the work themselves.

“It would be a faster, cheaper product at a local level,” he said.

Mr. Redeker also said that 25% of the DOT budget goes to bridges.

“Bridges are very expensive,” he said.

Elaine Kokoska, Redding resident, asked about conditions of bridges throughout the state and if any are in bad shape.

The reason the Simpaug bridge was replaced was because it was ruled deficient. However, there are no bridges in Connecticut that are in dire shape, he said.

According to the rating system, bridges in the poor category are to be watched and maintained and eventually replaced, like the Simpaug bridge, he said.

“Old bridges not built to today’s standards are functionally obsolete, but they’re not falling down,” said Mr. Redeker.

Ms. Kokoska also asked about wood bridges.

“We just finished restoring a wood bridge in Connecticut. We took the old one apart and replaced it beam by beam, board by board. It was fun for us,” said Mr. Redeker.

Though the bridge is officially open, it will be springtime before everything is in and done, said Mr. Redeker.

Landscaping and cleaning up the area around the bridge still has to be done.

The project was awarded on June 27, 2011, to Rotha Contracting Co. Inc. of Avon at a cost of $3,173,503. Work began in October 2011 and was expected to be completed by 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. Superstorm Sandy also had a role in delaying the opening.

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