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Blumenthal, Malloy Express Outrage Over Bridge Malfunction

by Christine Stuart | Jun 9, 2014 11:58am
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Congress, State Capitol, Transportation, Norwalk

Photo by NancyonNorwalk.com (Updated 4:35 p.m.) U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expressed outrage over the malfunctioning 118-year-old Walk Bridge in Norwalk that delayed commuters at least twice in the past two weeks.

At a press conference Monday morning in Hartford, Blumenthal said every time the bridge gets stuck it disrupts train travel an average of 90-minutes. However, in the two most recent incidents it remained stuck for three hours and five hours respectively. The bridge was built in 1896.

In 2013, the bridge failed 16 times, which is about a 6 percent fail rate. The bridge was opened 271 times that year, according to Blumenthal.

“One way or another, this 118-year-old bridge is susceptible to these malfunctions, in the short-term there need to be repairs and better maintenance,” Blumenthal said.

To that end he’s hoping the federal government releases $349 million in Sandy resiliency funds to the state, which will be matched by $116 million in state funds to help repair the bridge. There are 12 states and the District of Columbia vying for the federal funds, which will be awarded at some point in the fall.

In the meantime, Blumenthal is calling on the U.S. Coast Guard to reduce and restrict the times that the Walk Bridge in Norwalk is opened. Blumenthal said the U.S. Coast Guard has the ability to keep the bridge closed and it’s unclear at the moment what commercial marine traffic uses the bridge.

He said he’s asked the mayor of Norwalk to inform him exactly what commercial interests may be involved in requesting the opening of the bridge.

The bridge has four tracks and spans 564 feet across the Norwalk River. According to Department of Transportation officials, the bridge has a swing span of 200-feet and averages approximately 20-30 openings per month, primarily for tall barges.

“Loss of the bridge would sever the sole direct rail link from Boston to New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.,” a DOT fact sheet on the bridge states. “Partial service would be restored as expeditiously as possible through significant investment of state and regional resources but even one month without a Norwalk River rail crossing would severely disrupt the commutes of hundreds of thousands of people relying on MNR and Amtrak service in the corridor daily and yield devastating economic impacts.”

The replacement of the bridge, if the state is able to get the federal funds, would start in 2018 and take six years to complete.

Malloy is expected to meet with Metro-North officials Monday afternoon to discuss the situation. Blumenthal, who was headed back to Washington, will attend that meeting by telephone.

On Friday, Malloy called for a “crisis summit” with Metro-North and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials.

“This is now the second major failure in two weeks, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and causing unacceptable delays,” Malloy said in a statement. “Let me be clear, this is outrageous.”

But the rail, which is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, is used by Metro-North Rail, Amtrak, and freight companies.

Asked who is to blame for not investing in the infrastructure to ensure the bridge didn’t malfunction, Blumenthal declined to cast blame on either the state or the federal government.

“Very bluntly, I’m not about blaming anyone right now,” Blumenthal said. “I’m about fixing this problem and the way to fix it is short-term.”

In the long-term, he said he wants to get the money to replace the bridge as soon as possible.

In a letter, Blumenthal and the rest of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, urged the Federal Transit Administration to release the funding as soon as possible.

Sen. John McKinney, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, said Malloy has known about this infrastructure project since he’s been in office.

“We shouldn’t wait for the federal government. Connecticut owns the bridge. We should act,” McKinney said.

Malloy said Monday afternoon that’s exactly what his administration is doing.

“In 2008, plans for a new bridge were dropped and no additional investment was made,” Malloy said. “Today, we are not only providing the funding to maintain it, we’re also developing a plan to replace it.”

Malloy announced Monday that teams from both the MTA and the state will identify the issues and funding sources by mid-July.

Click here to read NancyonNorwalk’s story about what the bridge failure did to commuters.

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(12) Comments

posted by: Joebigjoe | June 9, 2014  12:20pm

I’m outraged that my Model T breaks down every so often. What an idiot.

He wants to replace it in the long term? If its that significant and would economically create a disaster for this area, then he should get the money from Harry Reid or get one of Obamas executive orders. They have enough money to spend on other garbage in the federal government, including now an army of lawyers for illegals paid for by the government, that you would think that getting money for this would be immediate.

Also they say it would start in 2018 if the state can get federal funds. Last I looked we have an employment issue and this would create good paying jobs for 6 years. If his bridge having a catastrophic failure is an issue then no Republican would stop it if the money was rammed through and no delay in starting to replace.

posted by: GBear423 | June 9, 2014  12:44pm

GBear423

wait… er, what??  We have 17 Trillion dollars of debt, a War in Afghanistan, Russian land grabs, Chinese naval power plays and cyber attacks, A Healthcare system that is becoming more unaffordable, and a multitude of other fiscal calamities approaching critical… and Dickie is outraged over a frikkin bridge in Norwalk?
The Bridge is over 100 yrs old, I think Norwalk should be ponying up the funds with some State assist (No Federal). And lets not go with lowest bidder, this structure lasted 100 years+, the refit should be a quality job considering the amount of storms it will see.
Dick needs to go, he is just an amateur pork grabber, we need a Statesman to represent this State.

posted by: Noteworthy | June 9, 2014  12:46pm

If it’s Monday…..it’s “outrage day.” If Congress worked more, perhaps there would be less outrage and outage.

posted by: dano860 | June 9, 2014  12:56pm

Gbear423, let’s not forget the $1.8Trillion that his latest executive order will absolve. The student loans for those that can dub away 10 years will be wiped away. Guess who picks up the tab then? Yup, you and I.

posted by: Common Sense | June 9, 2014  1:55pm

If Malloy and Blumnthal were doing their jobs this ancient bridge would have been replaced.  Instead all they do is to give a lot of worthless political rhetoric to tell the people that they are still alive “but stealing their paychecks by providing their usual mumbo-jumbo.” As a result you won’t see Malloy and Blumenthal traveling on Metro North.  They only give political moral support to the daily passengers who must “face the bad music.”
Both Malloy and Blumenthal are in office as testimonials to the fact “that people are careless with their votes.”

posted by: GuilfordResident | June 9, 2014  1:56pm

Clearly the blame lies w/ CT and/or feds if Blumie isn’t willing to point a finger.

posted by: Bluecoat | June 9, 2014  2:08pm

I was wondering, was Mr. Blumy in office as a Senator when the “Busway to nowhere” money was approved?
Didn’t people on both sides indicate we should forgo this project and use the money to fix our roads and bridges?

posted by: Art Vandelay | June 9, 2014  2:26pm

Why on earth would Sandy Relief funds be used to fix this bridge?  If Metro North were managed properly they would have the money to fix it no questions asked.  Maybe this is a wake-up call to a much larger problem, and that is the entire track system. It needs to be replaced so high speed service like they have in Europe could be accommodated.  I’d rather see the money spent here than to foreign governments who laugh in our face.  Keep the money home and spend it wisely.

posted by: justsayin | June 9, 2014  6:20pm

I am sure this has been on the to fix list before. This is a local issue not a federal one. Blumy is only involved because he is a mass transit guy and there are cameras. He needs to grow up and do his job.

posted by: Common Sense | June 9, 2014  7:48pm

ArtVandelay: Who do exoect will keep the money here and spend it wisely?  Not the motley crew we elected in Washington. Obama and Congress is like “the blind leading the blind.” And Malloy says (with tongue in cheek; “We are developing a plan to replace the bridge.”
Malloy, like Blumenthal, is very careless with the truth.

posted by: Art Vandelay | June 9, 2014  11:15pm

@justsayin,
It’s not a local issue when federal & state funds subsidize train service on Metro-North.  The bridge and for a large part the entire northeast corridor needs a facelift to accommodate high speed rail service like Japan & Europe.  It’s pathetic that the greatest country on earth has Jurassic Era train service.

posted by: Art Vandelay | June 9, 2014  11:17pm

We may have 19th Century Bridge, affecting thousands of commuters everyday, but we WILL have a new busway that may attract a few dozen.