BEACON FALLS – When he was in grade school, Beacon Falls state Rep. Len Greene remembers walking to little league practice and joking with his friends about when the Depot Street Bridge would fall into the river.
Greene and others like him no longer have to worry about that possibility.
Town and state officials officially dedicated the newly renovated bridge in a ceremony April 8.
“They did a good job,” Greene said. “It makes a huge difference to the appearance of downtown.”
Although the 76-year-old bridge was never in danger of actually collapsing, it was in need of repairs, according to First Selectman Susan Cable. At one point, traffic was restricted to one lane so the bridge would never have too much weight on it at once, she said.
Federal and state transportation grants paid for the $3.5 million overhaul of the bridge.
“It’s not as large as the George Washington Bridge, but symbolically, it’s just as large because it really demonstrates teamwork on the federal, state and district level and leadership by the First Selectman and her team,” said state Sen. Joe Crisco (D-Woodbridge).
The repairs have been a long time coming. Beacon Falls secured its first grant in 2003 under former First Selectman Richard Mihalcik, but lost the grant in the official changeover to Cable’s administration.
In 2007, Cable won the first grant that was used for the project and construction started in September 2009.
“It was a long battle to get the funding. Now that it’s complete, it was well worth the money,” said Selectman Dominic Sorrentino.
The bridge was originally built in 1835, 300 feet to the south. After that bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1855, a new covered wooden bridge took its place at the current location. In 1892, the last 60 feet of the 215 foot bridge rotted through and was replaced by a metal structure. In 1934, the rest of the wooden bridge was replaced with the 212 foot Parker Truss style metal bridge that has served the town ever since.
The Depot Street Bridge was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2007.
The bridge sports a fresh coat of green paint. The bridge was painted in two stages and a large tarp covered the bridge for the majority of last summer. The north facing side of the bridge was completed first, followed by the south face.
Prior to painting, the contractor performed structural repairs to reinforce the underside of the bridge, which was among the most time time-consuming aspects of the project.
Cable said she was excited and proud that the project was finally complete, especially considering the town secured grants to offset the cost of the repairs.
“We didn’t have to foot the whole bill,” Cable said.