Boardwalk rebuilding set to begin soon in Niantic

East Lyme - Construction is slated to soon begin on the Niantic Bay Boardwalk, with plans calling for the rebuilt, steel-and-concrete structure to stretch about a half-mile along the shore by late next spring.

The town has reached an agreement with Amtrak that will enable the town to move forward on rebuilding the badly damaged boardwalk.

Amtrak has committed to help strengthen structures along the slope by the railroad track and contribute monitoring personnel for safety during construction, said First Selectman Paul Formica.

The town has $4.9 million to rebuild the structure, which forms a 1.1-mile path with Amtrak's existing concrete walkway.

Wiese Construction, the local company hired by the town, is beginning to set up materials near McCook Point Park. The company will build an access road through McCook's, which will serve as a staging area.

Through negotiations, Amtrak agreed to an in-kind contribution for monitoring and safety personnel by the railroad tracks and for upgrading the railroad replacement. The railroad service was able to negotiate the original $1 million price for that work down to approximately $460,000 and contribute funding, so the town will have to pay about $55,000, Formica said. He said he appreciated the office of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, for helping with the negotiations.

Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz confirmed that Amtrak has agreed to improve the embankment and that "safety is priority number one at Amtrak and we will take all the necessary precautions to ensure proper protection throughout the project."

The boardwalk's design will feature a steel bulkhead with 8-foot-wide panels either 24 or 30 feet deep, said Formica. The construction company will fill the boardwalk with concrete and install a new railing and a new fence by the railroad tracks. The design will be similar to Amtrak's concrete portion of the boardwalk, completed last year, except Amtrak used a concrete bulkhead.

"It will give us 100 year-storm protection and require a lot less maintenance than the old boardwalk," said Formica about the new design.

He said the project is scheduled to be completed by May or June of next year depending on weather. The structure could be completed in November, but the construction workers can't pour concrete in the colder months.

The town will also have two park monitors by Hole-in-the-Wall beach to make sure people can safely go onto the beach during construction.

The town's $4.9 million for the project is from insurance and lawsuit settlements, Federal Emergency Management Agency Funds and a Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant. Wiese was the lowest bidder at $4.4 million.

"It will be a great project, and we appreciate everyone's patience," Formica said, explaining that the town wanted to build the boardwalk so it both lasts and uses the fewest tax dollars possible.

k.drelich@theday.com

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