Plans for Coast Guard museum pedestrian bridge move forward

Proposed architectural designs released in December 2016 of the National Coast Guard Museum in New London include a vision of the pedestrian bridge that will connect the city's parking garage with the new museum and Cross Sound Ferry terminal.  (Courtesy of Payette Architects)
Proposed architectural designs released in December 2016 of the National Coast Guard Museum in New London include a vision of the pedestrian bridge that will connect the city's parking garage with the new museum and Cross Sound Ferry terminal. (Courtesy of Payette Architects)

New London — The nonprofit organization spearheading the $100 million National Coast Guard Museum is seeking State Bond Commission approval of $1.8 million to continue work on a pedestrian bridge downtown.

While the state already has committed up to $20 million for the bridge, the money is being requested incrementally as the project progresses, said Dick Grahn, president and chief executive officer of the National Coast Guard Museum Association Inc.

About $500,000 was used for what Grahn described as predesign activities: the hiring of an architect, along with some engineering, environmental and survey work being completed in conjunction with the overall design of the museum.

The latest request will pay for development of schematic designs and “help get us to a shovel-ready status over the next year or 18 months or so,” Grahn said.

The bridge eventually will span Water Street and the Amtrak railway line and connect the city-owned parking garage with the train station platform and another location convenient to both the museum and Cross Sound Ferry. It will include stairways and elevators in several locations.

“Things are moving along rapidly,” Grahn said.

Grahn said it is a complicated process, since local, state and federal regulations must be followed during the design and construction of both the bridge and museum. It also is key for the pedestrian bridge design to be developed in conjunction with the museum itself.

Boston-based architectural firm Payette is designing both the 54,000-square-foot museum and the bridge. The Coast Guard is now in the process of publishing its request for proposals for the museum exhibit designer for the interior.

Bob Ross, executive director for the state's Office of Military Affairs, said the fact the architect is designing both will ensure a seamless connection of the separate but interconnected projects. He expects it also will save money.

Ross said the project tentatively is scheduled to break ground in 2021, though that is subject to change.

Simultaneous to the bond commission request is a proposed bill referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding to secure legislative approval of bonds in an amount not to exceed $20 million over a period.

State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the bill he introduced would help codify the commitment made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with other state agencies to southeastern Connecticut.

“With the governor’s term coming to an end, I want to get continuity. I thought it would be a good idea to get it on the list,” Formica said.

Whether it will be necessary is unclear.

In 2014, a memorandum of agreement was signed by the state, New London, the Coast Guard and the National Coast Guard Museum Association that includes the state financial commitment.

“The State of Connecticut will pursue a funding commitment of an amount not to exceed $20 million for development and construction of the Museum, which in part will support construction of a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks for access to the Museum Parcel and the Cross Sound Ferry terminal,” the agreement reads.

It goes on to say the money would be released to the museum foundation through an agreement with the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Ross said discussion is ongoing at the state level about the timing of intervals of the release of the funds, and the bill pending with the legislature could help prevent any delays in the project.

“The challenge for us (is) we don’t ever want the state to be in a position slowing down the project because we haven’t released the funds necessary,” Ross said.

“I’m very comfortable with and satisfied with the progress I’ve seen,” Ross said of the Coast Guard Museum Association.

“They have done a great job in adapting to the feedback they’ve been given. I think it’s going to be something New London is very proud of,” he said.

g.smith@theday.com

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