Cost to repair Whittemore Bridge doubles

Repairing and restoring the Whittemore Bridge in Naugatuck is estimated to cost $8 million, more than double originally thought. –RA ARCHIVE


NAUGATUCK — The estimated cost of repairing and restoring the Whittemore Bridge downtown has nearly doubled.

The Board of Finance learned of the increase Monday during a review of the borough’s capital budget requests.

James Stewart, director of public works, said last week the project should cost $4.25 million, but Monday he said Clough Harbour & Associates, the engineering firm handling the project, now estimates repairs will cost $8 million.

Repairs to the bridge, which connects the east and west sides of the borough across the Naugatuck River, were estimated seven years ago to cost $3 million. The state should reimburse one-third of the repair costs, Stewart said.

Voters in 2005 voted to bond $2 million for the repairs, money the borough still has, plus $400,000 left over from other bridge work, Stewart said.

Stewart requested an additional $2.8 million for the project Monday, to be paid in yearly $398,000 increments for five years.

Bids will be solicited within the next two weeks, he said.

The state has named the century-old arched bridge as structurally deficient but still safe.

Concrete on top of the bridge’s arches is rotting, and running water has weakened the footings. The bridge carries a 40-ton weight restriction in the eastbound lane.

The most recent inspection concluded that workers would need to remove more rotting concrete than originally planned, Stewart said. Repairs will be so extensive that a temporary support system will need to be built for the bridge, which was not included in the original plans, according to Stewart.

Burgess Robert Neth blamed the state permitting process for the delays in getting the project started.

“How about some more percentage increase to the borough?” Neth said. “Them taking their sweet time because of bureaucracy is costing us more money.”

The plans call for restoring the bridge to its appearance before the Flood of 1955 washed away the four-foot parapet walls, with a bench carved in at the top of the arc. A dedication plaque, now at the west end of the bridge, was placed above the bench, and old-fashioned lamps stood at intervals atop the walls.

Stewart said he would like to pave the bridge in brick, which would last 50 years, while pavement would last 20. Board members argued Hillside Avenue, the borough’s only brick road, is in dismal condition, and some said Maple Street was never a brick road to begin with.

“I think we’d be foolish if we didn’t bring it back to what it was,” Neth said.