Beacon Falls bridge projects postponed

BEACON FALLS — With the future solvency of the state’s Special Transportation Fund in doubt, the state has postponed $4.3 billion in transportation projects indefinitely, including two projects in Beacon Falls.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker last week released a list of the postponed projects, saying they will remain postponed until new revenue is appropriated for the Special Transportation Fund.

DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said the fund will become completely insolvent, or unable to pay its debts, by 2020.

Nursick said the state is not saving or reallocating funds by suspending the projects.

“This is not about just not having money to pay the mortgage. This is a situation where you have to get rid of the house and forget the mortgage. You are not saving money; you are not spending money you don’t have,” Nursick said.

Without new revenue for the fund, the DOT is facing the prospect of cutting 15 percent of its workforce, reducing road and bridge maintenance and paving, cutting Town Aid Road grants to municipalities, and a litany of other reductions, according to Redeker.

For Beacon Falls, it means two planned bridge projects, totaling nearly $3 million, are on hold.

The state was planning a $1.9 million project to repair a bridge on Lopus Road over Hemp Swamp Brook and an $885,000 project to repair a bridge on Beacon Valley Road over Beacon Hill Brook. Both projects were scheduled for 2019.

“It certainly is disappointing when we see stuff like this,” First Selectman Christopher Bielik said. “The town has been in the pipeline for a number of years. We have been patiently waiting our turn. Just as we were almost there, it looks like the rug is getting pulled out from under us.”

Bielik said the bridge on Beacon Valley Road has been noted as needing repair for a number of years.

“It is not in disrepair but is at point where it needs to be refurbished. That’s why we had it on this list of things to do,” Bielik said.

The bridge on Lopus Road is in similar condition, Bielik said.

“We don’t want things to deteriorate past the point of safety. We are not there yet, but if we don’t address it in a timely fashion, we are in danger of repairing it on the town’s dollar or having it be closed to traffic,” Bielik said.

Nursick said the DOT shares the town’s concerns about delaying maintenance.

“When you defer maintenance for repairs the costs will increase as a result. If you don’t change the oil in your car, it might save you money in short term but will cost even more in damage. The same thing goes with bridge work. When you defer that work, the traffic and weather take their tolls on the infrastructure,” Nursick said.

Nursick said he’s not sure how the issue should be resolved, since the DOT tends to stay out of the political and financial side of issues. However, if the issue is not solved soon, it will have an impact on the entire state, he said.

“By not doing the work, you may be ultimately increasing costs on bridge projects, contributing to congestion, and you are scaring businesses away by not having transportation to and from work to support businesses and workers,” Nursick said.

Bielik said he hopes to see the transportation projects get back on track.

“Having projects of this type that fall under this method of procuring funds for them has been a boon to the state. It helps improve our infrastructure and gives local construction companies work,” Bielik said. “It is something that I am hopeful the legislature will find a way to reinstate. If not, it will have a grave impact, not just in Beacon Falls, but throughout state.”