NAUGATUCK — The slowly deteriorating Whittemore Bridge downtown might have to go another year without repairs.
The bridge, now 101 years old, connects the borough’s east and west sides via Maple Street over the Naugatuck River. Over time, concrete on top of the arches has begun to rot away and the footings have been weakened by running water. Vehicles that weigh more than 40 tons are not allowed in the eastbound lane, and the state has determined the bridge needs work.
James Stewart, director of public works, said he is planning to request $2.1 million for repairs and restoration when the Board of Finance meets next month to hear capital project requests. He said the bridge is not in dangerous condition.
“As it gets worse, we’ll reduce the weight limit on the bridge,” said Stewart. “I think it should be done right now. Do I expect them to come up with the $2 million this year? Maybe not.”
The project will take two years while workers construct a temporary support system and remove crumbling concrete. Stewart has proposed to restore the bridge to its historic appearance before the flood of 1955, when it had four-foot parapet walls, an inlaid bench and period lamps.
Stewart also would like to pave the bridge with bricks, arguing they will last longer than asphalt, although there is some debate over whether that section of Maple Street was ever a brick road.
Clough Harbor & Associates, an engineering firm based in Albany, N.Y., estimated last spring that the project would cost $8 million. Stewart said he put the project out to bid last summer and got five proposals. The lowest bidder was Baier Construction, based in Bloomfield, for $4.7 million, Stewart said. Costs for contingency, inspection, police service and demolition of an abandoned building on the corner of Maple and South Main Streets will push the total amount to $6.5 million, Stewart said.
Of that amount, the state should reimburse 30 percent, although a bill in the state legislature could increase the reimbursement rate to 50 percent if it passes. The borough also has $2 million bonded for the project from 2005, and could have money left over from repairs to the Rubber Avenue bridge over Long Meadow Brook at Edward Street, Stewart said. That work was finished last year.
After some delays, the borough received the necessary permits last year from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Stewart said.
“I just need cash at this point,” he said.
The longer the borough waits, the greater the chance the project cost will increase as construction costs rise and the bridge’s condition worsens, Stewart said.
“Ultimately, you’d have to go back out to bid again, so there’s no guarantee you get that good of an amount again,” Stewart said.
The state two years ago finished a $22 million repair of the Salem Bridge, where Route 63 passes over the Naugatuck River. The borough also repaired another bridge over Long Meadow Brook, on Rubber Avenue Extension, last year.
Apart from the Maple Street bridge, Stewart said, the borough now only needs to repair the Cotton Hollow bridge, which connects to Beacon Falls. Both towns will have to collaborate on the project, Stewart said.