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The tide passes through the Route 146 Crabbing Bridge, which is soon to be replaced due to the bridge’s deteriorating condition. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Residents’ concerns have been heard. Following swift public response to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed plan to elevate and widen the Route 146 bridge commonly known as the “crabbing bridge,” the DOT has informed town and state officials it intends to pause and adapt the plan to address resident’s concerns before moving forward.
The DOT unveiled the bridge concept at a public information session in town on March 19. Nearly 100 residents attended the event and were almost unanimous in their opposition.
The bridge in question is formally known as Bridge No. 02677. The DOT has plans to replace the bridge—State Project No. 59-157—in the spring of 2021 due to the deteriorating condition of the structure.
The current structure is a six-foot box culvert built in 1930 over a man-made causeway. According to the DOT presentation, the culvert has deteriorated to such a point that it is now ranked as a three on a scale of zero to nine, with nine being the safest ranking. In addition, the existing guardrail is substandard and the culvert restricts water flow and does not allow of adequate tidal flushing of the marsh.
According to the DOT, the working concept, at the time was to replace the existing culvert with a 360-foot, three-span bridge, complete with new retaining walls and a new bridge railing. The proposal would lift the bridge several feet and widen the structure from the current 26 feet to 32 feet to allow for a bike shoulder. The project was expected to cost $14 million, all coming from state funds. Availability of funding will determine the exact start date of the project.
Residents understood that the bridge was in poor condition and didn’t seem to take any issue with the fact that something has to be done to fix the road, but the size and scope of the proposal sparked a lot of comments and questions. Residents were concerned about environmental issues, the scenic nature of the road, and traffic, among other issues.
Following the information session, State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) said it was clear this proposal wasn’t going to be acceptable to the public.
“I have heard from many constituents who live along Route 146 or who frequent Route 146 that had some valid concerns about the design and what that would do to the character of that road and so the first selectman [Matt Hoey] and I went up and had a meeting with DOT Commissioner Joseph Giulietti, where we expressed those concerns to him and his team,” he said.
Scanlon said the meeting went very well.
“To his credit he immediately understood where we were coming from and what that would mean for that road and gave us his assurance that he would hit the pause button and work with us and the community to redesign things to more reflect the character of that road,” he said. “I couldn’t be more appreciative for his willingness to listen to us, which is essentially listening to the people of Guilford, and I am excited to work with him going forward to craft a solution that works for everybody.”
Hoey said DOT representatives also met with Guilford and Branford town officials including him, Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove, and both towns’ engineers. Hoey said the DOT was clearly open to making some changes and working with local officials, especially the Guilford town engineer.
“I am pleased to see the process unfolding in a manner that accommodates legitimate public concern and compromise on the part of the Department of Transportation,” he said.
In addition, another big concern expressed by residents at the first public hearing was that this bridge is just one small part of Route 146. Most residents agreed that Route 146 is beautiful because of the scenic views of the marsh, but most residents will also tell you—as they did in the information session—that Route 146 also has big issues with flooding. During spring tides, high tide, and large rain storms, for example, the two railway underpasses to the north and south of the bridge in question always flood, often making the road impassable.
Hoey said the DOT heard that concern, too, and will take into consideration something called the Route 146 corridor study, a study project approved by the South Central Regional Council of Governments, to look at how this bridge replacement nests within long term plans for Route 146 as a whole.
At the public information sessions, one of the more vocal critics of the proposed bridge replacement concept was Route 146 Scenic Road Advisory Committee Co-Chair Shirley Girioni. She had said the plan was not in keeping with the character of the road, a road listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a scenic road under the scenic roads act. She said she was pleased to see the DOT is being receptive to public input.
“I was very happy to hear that they did pay attention and realized the historic and scenic qualities of the road and are trying to respect those qualities,” she said.
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