Making old new again

Repairs would restore original look of Whittemore Bridge

This photo shows the Whittemore Bridge in Naugatuck prior to the Flood of 1955. The borough is planning work on the bridge, which includes restoring its original look. –COURTESY OF THE NAUGATUCK HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This photo shows the Whittemore Bridge in Naugatuck prior to the Flood of 1955. The borough is planning work on the bridge, which includes restoring its original look. –COURTESY OF THE NAUGATUCK HISTORICAL SOCIETY

NAUGATUCK — The borough has taken a step forward to taking the Whittemore Bridge back more than 60 years.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses this month awarded a $6 million contract for the reconstruction of the Whittemore Bridge, which crosses the Naugatuck River via Maple Street, to the Plantsville-based construction company Mohawk Northeast, Inc.

Public Works Director James Stewart said the borough is hoping to renovate the bridge to the way it looked before the Flood of 1955.

“As it is now, it is planned to be 100 percent as it was originally. With lights that match as closely as we can get to what was originally there. With the brick pavers over the surface. With the plaque and the seating and the concrete parapet walls,” Stewart said.

The repairs to the 104-year-old bridge are for more than just aesthetic reasons, however. The concrete on top of the arches has begun to rot away and the footings have been weakened by running water. This has reduced the bridge’s weight limit to 40 tons and prevents some larger vehicles from crossing.

The funds for the work will come from two sources. The borough will use approximately $3 million from a $5 million bond voters approved in 2014. The other $3 million will come from a grant the borough received from the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

In addition, the borough will set aside $150,000 for contingency and $200,000 for construction inspection for the bridge, Stewart said. This money will come from the borough’s five year capital fund.

If there are no delays the work is expected to begin in the spring, Stewart said.

While he liked the project overall, Burgess Carl Herb wasn’t in favor of using pavers instead of asphalt or concrete on the bridge.

“I disagree with the brick pavers. They are a pain in the neck to shovel, they are a pain in the neck to plow, and they are slippery as heck,” Herb said.

Herb was also concerned about how much more the pavers are going to cost.

Stewart said the pavers are specifically designed to be used as roads and, while they are approximately $50,000 more than concrete or asphalt, the borough would get more life out of them.

“Asphalt these days lasts no more than 15 or 20 years. We expect the bricks are going to last significantly longer. On another project we looked into that had done this, they had one little area that had an issue. They picked up the bricks, they readjusted the bedding, and they put the bricks back down and haven’t had any issues at all with snow removal or anything,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the pavers, and other aspects of the bridge, could be changed if the board is against them.

“That’s still a debate that can be had if the burgesses want to. It is an add-on item, so we could eliminate it if that is the feeling of the room. But I thought it was an important aesthetic aspect of the bridge and that is the way it was originally,” Stewart said.

The bridge was originally constructed in 1912. It was designed by Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial and many buildings around the borough, including the former train station.

Deputy Mayor Robert Neth said he wanted to make sure the money was being spent wisely on the project.

“I hope that the Five Year Capital Committee is going to be in tune and monitoring this project, so that we could have quarterly meetings and make sure the money is being spent the right way,” Neth said.