North Stonington village bridge reopens

North Stonington — Given the impact of the two-and-a-half-year loss of a bridge that connects two halves of the village here, one might have expected some pomp when it finally opened again to traffic this morning.

But there were no speeches, no ribbon cutting and certainly no marching bands when the Town Hall Bridge, washed out in the spring floods of 2010, finally reopened a little after 11 a.m.

Richard Zaleski, president of Matrobattisto General Contractors, the Bristol company that won the contract for the $1.9 million project, simply lifted up the last orange traffic cone blocking traffic, and the bridge was back in business.

The roadbed of the bridge was paved Saturday, clearing the way for traffic today. But Zaleski said some finish work will continue for the next several weeks.

Few people turned out for the unceremonious reopening of the bridge this morning.

But one resident who came to watch predicted there may be some accidents in the offing, since people have gotten used to not honoring the stop sign in the center of town since the bridge became a dead end.

The original bridge washed out in the heavy flooding of March 2010 that also destroyed part of an adjacent historic building.

The rebuilding was complicated by the fact that the bridge and the entire section of the village in which it is located are part of a federal historic district. Getting an archaeological examination of the underwater portion of the structure proved especially difficult.

Much of t0he cost of the project was offset when the town received $1.47 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, while the bridge was out of service, the village was essentially divided in two.

And what had once been a short drive over the small span became a long detour, for people wanting to get from one side of the village to the other.

Zaleski said he was the first to actually drive over the new bridge today. He made the short trip before using a big machine to lift a few concrete barriers out of the way. Then came the orange cones.

How did it feel to finally drive across?

"Victorious," Zaleski said, looking down the empty road leading to the new bridge, to see who might be next.

d.collins@theday.com

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