Norwich Sherman Street bridge reconstruction plans explained

Norwich — The $13.4 million reconstruction of the Sherman Street bridge will require closing the busy street for the bulk of two construction seasons in 2022 and 2023 to replace the two bridge spans, widen the road, add a 5-foot sidewalk and improve water flow in the flood-prone Yantic River.

The bridge also will be shifted 20 feet to the south, to “square off” the intersection with Asylum Street to improve turns, and Asylum Street will be raised by 18 inches to meet the new height of the bridges, also about 18 inches higher than the existing bridges.

State, project and city engineers presented the bridge construction project to about 40 people, including several city officials and two state legislators Tuesday. The project cost will be divided, with 80 percent federal funds, $10.7 million, and the city and state each with 10 percent, $1.35 million.

Project Manager John A. Wengell of WMC Consulting Engineers quickly reviewed the numbers for the audience. The larger bridge, the west span over the main river, dates to 1955, and the superstructure has a state Department of Transportation grade of “poor,” and the substructure a grade of “satisfactory.” The smaller eastern span over a former canal was built in 1920 and reconstructed in 1964. This bridge superstructure is rated lower at “serious” and the substructure as “poor.”

Wengell said the replacement project will begin in spring of 2022 with relocation of utilities crossing the spans and along Asylum Street and the replacement of the shorter span over the canal. Sherman Street will be closed for much of the construction season that summer.

But in the second season, the road is expected to be closed from about April through early November, as replacement of the larger span is done.

The new bridges will be “clear span” structures, allowing improved water flow to reduce flooding and buildup of debris. The existing piers will be removed, and the bridges raised about 18 inches to reduce flooding as well. Drainage improvements are planned along both Sherman and Asylum streets in the project area.

The new bridges will have a natural stone-looking structure, Wengell said, to improve appearance.

The new road will be widened to two 12-foot lanes, 4-foot shoulders and one five-foot-wide sidewalk relocated to the south side of the bridges.

Fielding questions from the audience, project officials said Asylum Street would not be widened, and large trucks still will have a tight turning radius to enter and exit the road. Residents at the meeting complained that 18-wheelers routinely get stuck and damage the guardrails making the turn now, ignoring the reduced weight limit signs erected due to the poor bridge condition.

After the formal presentation, Mayor Peter Nystrom and city Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin discussed the total closure of the bridges, cutting off pedestrian traffic on a route used by Norwich Free Academy students from the West Side to the campus.

But McLaughlin said a separate city plan to reconstruct a historic staircase that connects Yantic Street at Uncas Leap to Sherman Street not far from NFA will be done next year and will be done before the bridge closure. Pedestrians could use pedestrian bridges over the Central Vermont freight rail tracks and over the Yantic River at Uncas Leap to cross the river during the bridge closure.

City officials also expressed the desire to use the project to clean debris and litter from the woods and riverbeds on both sides of the bridges and at the Sherman Street entrance to the Upper Falls Heritage Park just east of the two bridges.

The bridge reconstruction plan will be posted on the city website, www.norwichct.org. For more information, contact McLaughlin or city Engineer Brian Long at (860) 823-3798.

c.bessette@theday.com

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