MYSTIC, Conn — The state Department of Transportation and its Maine-based contractor will not shut down the Mystic drawbridge for the expected 54-hour period before this season’s bridge rehabilitation work comes to an end in April.
The closure, which would have closed the bridge to all vehicles and pedestrians, will now occur next year. It is needed so crews can install a traffic barrier on the Stonington side of the bridge. That barrier will pop up from the road and stop cars from driving off the edge of the bridge into the Mystic River when the span opens to let boats pass. The bridge needs to be closed for the work to be done.
Cianbro Co. of Pittsfield, Maine, is in charge of the $14.9 million project. Cianbro and the state DOT have won praise from local officials and businesses for how they have managed the project, as well as a previous phase that ended in 2002.
DOT project manager Keith Schoppe said that crews want to complete the work to realign the bridge before the contractual shutdown date of April 15. He said Cianbro did not want to introduce another aspect of the project so close to the deadline.
Schoppe said the project would now have to implement two 54-hour closures in the winter of 2013.
He said the construction season, which began on Dec. 1, has been a very productive one as crews were able to do a lot of work aligning the span and replacing its mechanical components, as well as some work not in the original contract.
He said the bridge is on schedule to reopen to boat and two-way vehicle traffic on April 15.
Since the bridge closed late last fall, boats were unable to pass by the span. And on Jan. 4, traffic over the drawbridge was changed to alternating one lane controlled by a traffic light.
This fall will mark the start of the project’s final season. Schoppe said work will commence on Nov. 1 instead of Dec. 1 so crews can get a jump on the final tasks which included replacing the control house and the structure below. The new control house will be floated up the river on a barge and then installed.
When the project is completed in April 2013 it will bring an end to a project that took 13 years.
The DOT completed the first phase of work in 2002 by replacing the bridge deck and sidewalk and repairing the massive counterweights that raise and lower the bridge. That work took two years.
The plan was to take a two-year break and then return in 2005 and 2006 to update the aging electrical and mechanical systems and repaint the span, which dates back to the 1920s. But that work was delayed until 2010 after the DOT discovered the alignment of the bridge was off because the bridge piers have settled into the river. It then had to design a solution to the problem.
The Day (New London, Conn.)
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