Beacon Falls, DOT get on same page for Burton Road work

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

A barrier blocks a section of Burton Road, shown March 23, between Wolfe Avenue and North Main Street in Beacon Falls. The section of the road has been closed since Christmas Eve due to structural issues. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — A project to reconstruct and reopen a section of Burton Road has taken longer than hoped to get going as local and state officials went back and forth on preliminary designs for the project.

The town on Christmas Eve closed the section of Burton Road from Wolfe Avenue to North Main Street to thru traffic due to structural issues and fears the road could fail.

The closed section of the road, which has a sidewalk on one side and a stone wall on the other, goes over a brook that runs behind the Beacon Mill Village apartments. The culvert under the road has been eroding for years, causing the road to shift.

In March, the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments approved a grant application under the state’s Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program for the project.

There’s no definite cost yet for the work, but estimates put the project from $2 million to $3 million or more. The town is responsible for the design costs, which are typically about 10% of the total cost.

Since the program uses state funds, the state Department of Transportation reviews the preliminary designs before committing funds. Whether to remove the historic northern stone wall that runs along the road was a sticking point between local and DOT officials as they went back and forth over the preliminary designs.

First Selectman Gerard Smith, DOT and NVCOG officials, and representatives from the town’s engineering consultants, SLR, met Aug. 4 to discuss the project.

Smith said everyone agreed there were some misunderstandings. He said the northern wall will not be removed, to the town’s satisfaction.

DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said images provided by SLR showed the northern wall is in very good condition with no apparent signs of deterioration or failure.

“It appears that if the northerly wall were to be replaced, there could be significant and costly disruption to the property above necessary to achieve the appropriate sight distance and shoulder area along the roadway,” Nursick said.

He said the DOT will work with the town while requesting additional engineering analysis for the condition of the northern wall.

Officials cleared up any discrepancies in the process and are now moving forward, NVCOG Executive Director Rick Dunne said.

“The town can have confidence to have (state) reimbursement,” Dunne said.

Officials can make changes in the design if they encounter an unexpected issue in the future, he said.

“This is a good deal,” Dunne said “It will allow us to move forward now with the design.”

SLR will do the final designs, which will be reviewed by NVCOG engineers.

“We have to make certain the road that gets rebuilt is safe and meets modern standards for safety and drainage,” Dunne said.

Smith said once the town gets an official commitment of funds, he expects the final design and the bidding process to take about 90 days.

It’s unclear when construction will start.

Smith is hopeful if everything goes well and the weather holds up, work could start in the winter.

Dunne said the goal is start in the spring.

Smith said he’s sorry the project took this long to get to this point but is pleased things are moving forward.

“I’m excited to get the project started and get Burton Road open,” Smith said.