Work progressing on expanded beach in Niantic

Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Barriers block access to the wrecked Niantic Bay Boardwalk at Hole in the Wall Beach in Niantic on Friday. While the Amtrak Beach section of the boardwalk will be complete sometime in June, repairs on the boardwalk won't start until after Labor Day.

East Lyme - This summer, an expanded beach will open along Niantic Bay's shore.

Stretching about half a mile long, the finished Amtrak beach near the Niantic River Bridge will be about 100 foot wide, about twice the width of the original area.

The beach was filled with about 76,000 cubic yards of sand during the project's duration.

The beach features a jetty, which will allow sand to accumulate and naturally replenish the beach, said First Selectman Paul Formica.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said in an email that the work on the beach is "mostly complete with some minor final details being worked on."

A ceremony, tentatively scheduled for early June, will mark Amtrak's completion of the bridge. The beach will open soon after, said Formica.

As Amtrak finishes its work on the Niantic River Bridge, other improvements and repairs to the town's beach areas are also under way. Near the beach, the parking lot by Cini Memorial Park will nearly double, to 127 parking spaces. In addition, the town is waiting to hear about a grant to help cover the cost of building bathrooms at Cini Park.

The town has also received $3.1 million in legal settlements from storm damage to rebuild the Niantic boardwalk, with the possibility of more funding from a Superstorm Sandy settlement.

Construction on the town's portion of the Niantic boardwalk is scheduled to begin around Labor Day, with planned completion for spring 2014. The design phase of the concrete pathway is completed, said Formica, but construction will begin in September to prevent blocking access to Hole-in-the-Wall Beach.

Meanwhile, at McCook Point Park, the town is finishing repairs on the sidewalk and retaining wall damaged from Sandy, using Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

The Crescent Beach Association is also working in conjunction with the town to repair a sidewalk area in that beach, according to a town presentation at a Zoning Commission meeting.

Formica said the town will assess what changes the new beach area brings, including impact to traffic and parking patterns, this summer before making any adjustments, if needed, for future summers. One idea being considered is a trolley service that would transport people from a parking area to the beach, which could generate revenues from advertising or fare donations.

k.drelich@theday.com

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