Insurance settlement for East Lyme walkway damage from Irene is $1.7 million

Buy Photo Sean D. Elliot/The Day Damage to the Niantic Bay Boardwalk can be seen from Hole in the Wall beach in this Nov. 12, 2012, photo. Both Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy bombarded the waterfront walkway.

East Lyme - The town announced this week that it will receive $1.7 million from an insurance settlement for damages to the Niantic Bay Boardwalk from Tropical Storm Irene, which it plans to use with funds from a different settlement to rebuild the structure, damaged again by Superstorm Sandy last year.

The town will initially receive about $1.5 million from the recent Irene settlement and then about $200,000 when construction of the boardwalk is complete. In addition, the town has approximately $1.4 million from an earlier, out-of-court settlement with the contractor and designer for faulty design and construction of the boardwalk, First Selectman Paul Formica said.

A nor'easter damaged the walkway in 2005, the year the structure - which stretches about 1 mile along Niantic Bay and the Long Island Sound - was completed. The walkway had a gravel footpath that merged into a composite wood boardwalk structure.

The town is now in the process of designing a concrete walkway.

"We're hoping to make it sustainable for the next 20 years and fairly maintenance-free," Formica said, adding that it should have a life span of twice that.

If the project cost is within the town's budget, the town will put the project out to bid and aim to have construction completed by the summertime, Formica said. He added that the town hopes to take advantage of the lower building costs of the current economy.

The town hopes Amtrak will join in on the repair efforts since the boardwalk abuts Amtrak's property, but talks are still preliminary.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said Amtrak had an engineering inspection done that determined the tracks are safe for transit. The company recently toured the area the town would like to rebuild and met with town officials to exchange preliminary ideas about "what level of support, if any, Amtrak would provide."

Amtrak is meanwhile building a two-track, electrified, railroad bascule bridge across the Niantic River between East Lyme and Waterford, 58 feet south of the old bridge.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who toured the damaged area last month, voted for the House of Representatives bill for Superstorm Sandy relief, which passed with funding for Amtrak for storm-related repairs, as well as capital grants and infrastructure recovery. While the bill still requires the Senate to pass it, Courtney said it has the Senate's commitment for approval.

"Certainly, in my opinion, East Lyme's Amtrak embankment should definitely qualify for help," Courtney said.

The town also photographed how the boardwalk structure looked after both storms, which will help to document the extent of the damage on its insurance claim for Sandy, Formica said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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