Grant to help pay for bridge work

NAUGATUCK — The state Department of Transportation has agreed to fund about half of a local bridge repair project that officials have discussed for several years.

DOT notified Naugatuck officials this week that the borough will receive $3.19 million from the state’s local bridge program to repair the Whittemore Bridge on Maple Street. The total cost of the project is estimated at $6.75 million, said Naugatuck Public Works Director Jim Stewart, a certified engineer who is overseeing the project for the borough.

“If all goes as planned, we would begin construction by next summer,” he said.

With the state grant, Naugatuck has more than $5 million for the project; voters approved about $2 million several years ago for the reconstruction. Taxpayers will be asked at a referendum in the fall whether to bond an additional $1 million to cover the cost.

The DOT has ruled that the bridge is in need of repair. Stewart said it is not a safety hazard, but noted the bridge does have a 40-ton weight restriction, meaning that some large trucks cannot drive over it.

The state has said that concrete on top of the bridge’s arches is rotting and must be replaced. The riverbed will be excavated to add stone to the footings, which flowing water has deteriorated over the decades, the DOT states.

Naugatuck will also replace metal railings along the bridge with 4-foot stone walls, and add a bench and old-fashioned lamps.

A plaque on the bridge will be moved to its original location; the original plaque was ruined during the Flood of 1955 and was moved. Several other amenities, including lamps, were ruined during the flood.

Stewart has said that he wants to add brick pavers to the bridge if money allows. He noted that they last longer than pavement.

The bridge was built in 1912 and designed by Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and several other buildings in Naugatuck including the old train station and the Howard Whittemore Memorial Library.

Naugatuck officials have said for more than 13 years that the bridge needs to be repaired. Burgess Bob Neth, chair of the five-year capital committee for major projects, put the money on this year’s allocation request list because he said the project cannot be put off much longer.

“The longer we wait,” he told borough officials, “the more this project is going to cost.”

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