DOT to hold meeting on plans for Niantic River Bridge work

A roughly $15 million project for the Niantic River Bridge that carries Route 156 over the Niantic River in East Lyme and Waterford, including mechanical and electrical work, resurfacing the roadway, repairing steel and painting the bridge, could begin as soon as 2020.

But the state Department of Transportation said it first wants to hear from residents and businesses in the surrounding area, as it moves forward with developing the design for the project.

The DOT said in a notice that it will hold a public information meeting on Thursday, March 29, in the Upper Meeting Room at East Lyme Town Hall. A forum for people to speak individually with the DOT will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by a presentation at 7 p.m.

During the meeting, DOT officials will present what the issues with the bridge are and what the agency is proposing, and then ask for public comment as DOT proceeds with the design, Robert Brown, project manager, said by phone.

"The purpose of the project is to rehabilitate the bridge structure and its architectural, mechanical and electrical components; which include replacement of the wearing surface on the bridge deck, removal and replacement of bridge joints, repainting the superstructure, upgrades to the operator’s control house and repairs to the vertical sheeting of the fender system around the main pier," the DOT wrote in the event notice.

The agency said the renovations will enable "a 25 to 30 year service life of the bridge."

DOT already replaced the bridge's control unit, when the span faced issues with the critical function of opening and closing for marine traffic last summer, Brown said, and the upcoming project will include follow-up electrical and mechanical work.

DOT plans to complete the project over about a two-year timeframe, he said.

With businesses, restaurants, charter boats and the Niantic Bay Boardwalk in the vicinity of the bridge, Brown said it will be critical to work to minimize disruptions to ongoing activities during the summer.

"We're trying to develop a project that works around that issue," Brown said.

He said everyone should feel they have the opportunity to add input to the direction in which the project is heading. DOT anticipates starting the final design phase about the end of the summer.

East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson said DOT explained to the town that the bridge needs significant upgrades. He said that while he's glad the construction project will be done, it’s also important to be sensitive to the impact on the local area and marine traffic. He said the session will be an opportunity for DOT to get feedback from the public.

DOT officials also are working to coordinate with state and local agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard, Brown said.

DOT said in the event notice that it anticipates starting construction in spring 2020, "based on the availability of funding."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had listed in January funding for the bridge as among the projects postponed unless the legislature finds more revenue for the state's Special Transportation Fund.

Brown said the bridge had been placed on the list of projects under review but it is a priority and DOT anticipates funding, whether it's ultimately from state, federal or a combination of state and federal sources.

"Funding is always a concern but it’s a very important project to keep going," he said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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