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    Saturday, June 10, 2023

    Finally, Birdland Bridge a priority

    The Wequetequock culvert, locally known as the Birdland Bridge, is a decades-old trouble spot on Route 1. On March 6, 2023, we lost a Stonington resident who was struck and killed on his way home from work. Efforts to make this bridge safer should be a top priority.

    In 2019 our Moss Farm Neighborhood group created a petition to prioritize the completion of the Pawcatuck Sidewalk. We lost a resident, a veteran in a wheelchair, on the other end of this dangerous corridor. Since that first death, many new residents have moved into the high-density affordable housing projects built on that same stretch.

    While collecting hundreds of signatures supporting the Pawcatcuk Sidewalk, a group of residents from Birdland came to my house to sign our petition. They were numerous and adamant. They wanted to ensure the "Birdland Bridge" would be included in the new Pawcatcuk Sidewalk design. They said for generations, Birdland residents have had to "flatten themselves against the guardrail to avoid getting hit" as they crossed the culvert on their way to Stonington High School.

    Unfortunately, when I went to Town Hall in February, I realized that the new Pawcatcuk Sidewalk design begins on the other side of the High School near the VFW, and ignores the Birdland Bridge altogether. A few weeks later Gary Piver was killed.

    Here is the most recent information I have learned:

    Our local DOT will soon apply reflective "culvert markers" on this narrow bridge.

    Town Hall and Eversource are working on adding more lighting by attaching a light fixture to a telephone pole.

    Chief DelGrosso has requested "Road Narrows" signs from the DOT headquarters in Newington.

    However, the best news is that the Wequetequock culvert has been identified as a priority project. The DOT understands it needs to be widened to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. Under normal circumstances, a DOT project like this can take 3-5 years to get designed, permitted, and built. As Rt. 1 is a state road, it will be entirely paid for by the state and not affect our town budget.

    As the Pawcatuck Sidewalk finally comes to fruition this spring, it is clear that important projects get done when we work together. Residents help identify the priorities and support sustained political will through election cycles. When town officials are responsive to the needs of the residents and the state reps help the town work with the State organizations, our important projects make it over the finish line.

    Working together we look forward to a well-designed, wider Birdland Bridge to provide safe passage for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorized wheelchairs.

    Laura Graham is a resident of Pawcatuck.

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