NAUGATUCK — The Whittemore Bridge along Maple Street sees a wide variety of use: motorists drive over it, pedestrians walk over it, and, once a year, rubber ducks are dumped off of it. The more-than-a-century-old bridge will undergo major renovations starting this month.
In March, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses 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 didn’t have a definite start date for the project last week, but said the company it slated to begin the work by the middle of June.
Once the work begins only one lane will be open on the bridge. Stewart said traffic will only be allowed to cross the bridge coming into the downtown, heading towards Church Street, from the highway. Traffic heading out of the downtown area will be detoured onto Water Street, Cedar Street, Meadow Street, Cherry Street, over the Salem Bridge and onto South Main Street.
The work on the bridge is expected to continue for nearly two years until the spring of 2018, Stewart said. He hopes to have the bridge open to two-way traffic before the construction is finished.
The work will include restoring the bridge to how it looked before it was destroyed in the historic Flood of 1955, including recreating the walls and parapets that used to run along the bridge.
The work also includes replacing the concrete arches holding the 104-year-old bridge up. 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 money to pay for the work comes from a $5 million bond voters approved in 2014 and a $3 million grant the borough received from the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Although the borough is set to begin work on the bridge, not everything has been finalized.
Currently the plan calls for pavers to be used for the road across the bridge, which is what was there before the flood. In March, burgesses brought up concerns about the pavers and their lifespan.
Stewart said the borough is still discussing what it will use, but expects to have made a decision long before it becomes an issue.