Borough constructing plan for repairs

NAUGATUCK — Now that money has come in for Naugatuck to repair the Whittemore Bridge on Maple Street, the borough must devise a plan for construction.

The more than $6.2 million worth of repairs will likely begin in the spring, and officials will soon begin planning traffic patterns during construction.

At least a couple of downtown merchants are concerned about how the project, which will take two construction seasons to complete, will affect business.

“We’ve always wondered whether it would be closed one way or whether it would be two-way during construction because it will impact our business,” said Marco Nardelli, a co-owner of Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe on Maple Street, about 200 feet west of the bridge. “We would definitely prefer two-way traffic, otherwise it would cause a hardship for our business.”

Preliminary indications from the borough are that the bridge will be open one way only going eastbound — from the center of the borough toward the highway and the east side. They have long said that would be the safest and most cost-effective process.

Nardelli said if it needs to be one-way, he would prefer traffic to come westbound into the borough from the highway.

“We’re there for the convenience of our customers and one way going eastbound is certainly not going to be convenient,” he said, adding that the company’s billboard ads on Route 8 say “easy on, easy off.”

Fire Chief Ken Hanks, who will have input on the decision, said he has spoken to Nardelli and Howie Rosenblatt, owner of Rosenblatt’s Department Store, also on Maple Street. He said while he hears their concerns, the safest thing is for one-way traffic to go eastbound.

“We’ve had some preliminary planning done, but now that we have the money in, I’m sure we will discuss it more in the near future,” Hanks said, adding that a temporary traffic light for emergency responders could be an alternative.

Burgess Bob Neth, chairman of the Five Year Capital Committee that recommended funds for the project, said he has also heard from business owners and hopes to find a way that will satisfy everyone. He said officials plan to discuss this next week.

Public Works Director Jim Stewart said the project will likely start in the spring, if not the early summer. He said someone bid about $4.7 million for the project two years ago, but that bidder can no longer do it at that price because costs have gone up. He is sending the project back out to bid soon.

The State Bond Commission just approved more than $3.3 million for the project last week, which gives Naugatuck the full amount needed to complete the work.