Borough to renovate 100-year-old bridge

The borough is eyeing renovations for the Whittemore Bridge in Naugatuck, which will turn 100 years old next year. RA ARCHIVE


NAUGATUCK — The Whittemore Bridge, which connects downtown to the borough’s east side via Maple Street over the Naugatuck River, is turning 100 next year.

To celebrate, the borough will tear it up for renovations.

The concrete on top of the bridge’s arches is deteriorating, said James Stewart, director of public works.

“It’s rotting, and it’s got chunks that are falling out of it, and that provides the structural support of the bridge,” Stewart said.

The bridge is safe for traffic, although the state has imposed a 40-ton weight restriction for eastbound drivers, Stewart said. State inspections have pronounced the bridge in need of repair for at least 10 years.

Ice, water, and salt have damaged the bridge over the years, Stewart said. To repair it, workers will need to remove the asphalt and fill material to replace the rotting concrete underneath, Stewart said. They will also excavate the riverbed to add stones to the footings, which have been eroded by water, Stewart said.

The plans include restoring the bridge to its original appearance, including four-foot parapet walls instead of metal railings, a bench on the pedestrian walkway and old-fashioned lamps.

Those things were washed away, along with the bridge’s dedication plaque, in the flood of 1955. A new plaque and the railings were added in 1960. Officials are debating paving the bridge with bricks, if cost allows, meaning Hillside Avenue would not be the borough’s only road made of bricks.

“If done correctly, they’ll last longer than the pavement will,” Stewart said.

The borough is waiting for a permit to excavate the riverbed from the Army Corps of Engineers, which assesses the impact of such projects on people and the potential for flooding. Construction is likely to begin in the summer, Stewart said.

“Potentially, it would be done at this time in two years,” Stewart said.

The repair was estimated to cost $4.25 million two years ago, with the state to reimburse 30 percent. The money was included in a bonding package, which now contains only $2 million of the $3 million needed to repair the bridge after reimbursement.

The borough will solicit bids for the project this winter, before next year’s budget is approved, to determine whether additional funding will be needed, Stewart said.

“At this point, I’m going to have to come up with a better idea of where I am,” he said.

While repairs are ongoing, traffic on the bridge will only run eastbound, away from the fire station, so firefighters can still access the east side of town, he said.

Drivers trying to get downtown from across the river can take Water Street and then Rubber Avenue, or Cedar Street to loop around.

The bridge was constructed in 1912 and dedicated in 1914 in memory of John Howard Whittemore, the noted borough philanthropist who owned an iron company and donated many historic buildings to the borough’s downtown.

The state recently finished a $22 million project to repair the Salem Bridge, where Route 63 passes over the Naugatuck River and the Metro-North railroad.

The borough finished repairs to the Rubber Avenue bridge over the Long Meadow Brook about a month ago at a cost of $900,000, Stewart said.

The Cotton Hollow bridge also needs repairs, which the borough will likely partner with Beacon Falls to perform, as the bridge links both towns, Stewart said.

Editor’s note: An earlier post of this story used the wrong picture.