- What is the Walk Bridge Program?
The Walk Bridge "Program" is a series of related "Projects" that need to be completed before work can begin on replacing the Walk Bridge itself. The Walk Bridge carries four New Haven Line railroad tracks over the Norwalk River. The primary project of the Program is the Walk Bridge Replacement Project. Other projects in the Program are the Danbury Branch Dockyard Electrification project on the lower Danbury Branch Line and the CP243 Interlocking project on the mainline between East Norwalk and Westport. (CP243 refers to the numbered Catenary Post supporting overhead power lines at that location. An "interlocking" allows a train to change tracks.) The rehabilitation of the Osborne Avenue Bridge and the replacement of the East Avenue Bridge in East Norwalk are also included in the Program. The Walk Bridge Program also includes Emergency Fender Repair Work, to repair fenders that protect the piers underneath the bridge.
- Why is the existing Walk Bridge being replaced?
At 120-years-old, the Walk Bridge has long outlived its 100-year lifespan. The bridge currently carries approximately 200 trains (including freight) and 125,000 passengers over the Norwalk River every day and is part of the busiest rail corridor in the nation, the Northeast Corridor.
The Walk Bridge has experienced repeated operational failures and is vulnerable to damage by storm surges. Continued maintenance cannot guarantee bridge safety and proper functioning for an appropriate length of time to justify the cost.
The new bridge, currently under design, will provide safe and reliable rail service with increased efficiencies of rail transportation while improving navigational capacity and dependability for marine traffic passing beneath the bridge.
- What is being done to ensure that the Walk Bridge will not get stuck open prior to construction of the replacement?
After the operational failures of the Walk Bridge in 2014, CTDOT completed a $3 million repair program to ensure that the bridge remains operational until the new bridge is constructed.
In addition, extra precautions are being taken to ensure that the bridge functions properly. The bridge is currently opened manually, meaning that the machinery is activated by a qualified electrician and not by automatic controllers. Finally, the bridge is inspected regularly by engineers to ensure it is safe for use and receives ongoing maintenance.
- Why does the Walk Bridge need to be a movable span bridge?
The No Build and Movable Bridge Alternatives were advanced for further evaluation in the EA/EIE. The No Build Alternative would not extend the useful life of the existing bridge and would not meet the Project’s Purpose and Need, but was retained in the EA/EIE as a baseline condition for comparison purposes. Replacing the bridge with a new movable bridge is the only option that would satisfy the Project’s Purpose and Need.
For more information, please review the Walk Bridge Fixed Span Summary Report here.
- What is the process for replacing the Walk Bridge?
The Walk Bridge Program is being developed and constructed in phases to maintain rail service and reduce impacts to the public. The Walk Bridge replacement project is currently in the design and environmental phases.
- During the Environmental phase, what documentation is needed for each project?
The Walk Bridge Replacement Project, which includes the Fort Point Street Bridge, requires an Environmental Assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EA/EIE) in accordance with the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). The goal of this environmental review is to promote informed decision-making by considering a range of reasonable alternatives and analysis leading to selection of a preferred alternative. In addition, separate environmental reviews will be completed for the CP243 Interlocking and Danbury Branch Dockyard Projects. Since these projects are not expected to have a significant effect on the environment, Categorical Exclusions will be prepared. The Osborne Avenue and East Avenue Bridge Projects will also require Categorical Exclusions.
- What are the historic impacts being considered under the Walk Bridge Program and what is being done to mitigate these impacts?
The Walk Bridge is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places and is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. A preliminary historic assessment was conducted as part of the Section 106 Process to identify the Area of Potential Effect, or the area within which the Program may directly or indirectly affect historic properties. A design charrette was held in August 2015 to identify potential impacts and mitigation for historic resources, and a second charrette was held in February 2016.
- What is the CM/GC delivery method?
The Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) process is an innovative project delivery method that CTDOT will use for the Walk Bridge Program. With the CMGC process, the contractor acts as Construction Manager during design and advises CTDOT on schedule, phasing, constructability, materials availability, risk, and cost. This integrated team approach of involving the Contractor early in the project adds value by reducing construction duration, reducing impacts, improving construction sequencing, and reducing risk.
- What is the process of opening and closing the bridge and how often does the bridge open throughout the year?
The U.S. Coast Guard, in cooperation from Metro-North Railroad, oversees the operation of the Walk Bridge for maritime traffic. The bridge is currently opened by a qualified electrician, rather than by automatic controllers, to lessen the chance that the Walk Bridge will malfunction and get stuck in the open position. An opening and closing of the Walk Bridge takes approximately 20 minutes. The number of Walk Bridge openings per month varies based on seasonal navigation trends. As illustrated in the chart below, there were as many as 90 openings per month, based on data from 2013 and 2014.
- What are the contracts being implemented under the Walk Bridge Program?
The below graphic lists the current design contracts and design consultants, and illustrates how they are being carried out into construction contracts. More detailed information on the contractors can be found on the Program Team page.
- What are the design alternatives being considered for the Walk Bridge?
At 30% design, the alternatives for replacement of the Walk Bridge include a Through Truss Rolling Bascule and a Through Truss Vertical Lift Span option. The final design and aesthetics of the selected bridge option will evolve over time with input from the public.
A Through Truss Rolling Bascule is a movable bridge in which one end rises to provide clearance for boat traffic. This bridge type uses a counterweight that balances upon a span during its upward swing. A Through Truss Vertical Lift Span is a movable bridge in which the span rises vertically, to provide clearance for boat traffic, while remaining parallel with the bridge.
- How were the three design alternatives chosen?
Initially, 69 movable span options were identified and screened for alignment with the Program goals. The screening process included consideration of constructability and resiliency to withstand extreme weather and storm surges, navigational clearances, and aesthetics relating to the surrounding. The final design and aesthetics of the selected bridge option will evolve over time with input from the public.
- What property acquisitions are required for the Walk Bridge Program?
CTDOT has identified property impacts, including permanent acquisitions, for the Walk Bridge Program. CTDOT is working directly with property owners to acquire these properties, in accordance with the 49 U.S.C. Â§ 5323(q) and Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970. CTDOT policies and procedures identify requirements for rights-of-way, appraisal/appraisal review, land acquisition, relocation and property management activities. In addition, CTDOT is coordinating with utility companies to relocate utilities as necessary prior to construction.
- Why are the fenders being replaced prior to construction of the Walk Bridge?
The U.S. Coast Guard has determined that the condition of the existing fender system at the center (pivot) pier of the Walk Bridge is a public safety concern, due to the condition at the east channel, and has mandated repairs. The fender system protects both the bridge and maritime traffic from damage in the event of a collision.
Although the existing fender repairs are needed to ensure continued safe operations of the bridge and maritime traffic, the work does not include construction on the existing Walk Bridge itself.
The emergency repairs will replace deteriorated portions of the existing fender system including the installation of new vertical timber support piles into the river bottom and placing new horizontal timber walers. The project is scheduled to begin in June 2016 and is anticipated to be approximately five months in duration.
Image below shows the fender system which serves to protect the Walk Bridge and marine users in the event of a collision.
- Will there be opportunities for community input and project updates?
Yes. Beginning in April 2016, CTDOT will begin a series of public meetings that will continue throughout the duration of the project. These public meetings will provide opportunities for stakeholders to ask questions, learn more about the project and hear updates on the Walk Bridge Program’s progress, including design selection, construction schedules, mitigation efforts and more.
Also set to begin in 2016:
- Regular email updates and social media postings with program information and progress.
- Continued community outreach and coordination meetings with various stakeholder groups including residents, businesses, and commuters.
- This website and social media sites will be updated regularly with Program information.
When construction begins these communication methods will provide Norwalk residents with advance notice for traffic detours, weekly construction updates, and Program information.
- What will be done to reduce the impact of construction for residents and businesses in Norwalk?
CTDOT is continuing to meet with residents, businesses, and other stakeholders on their specific concerns and identify approaches to reduce and mitigate impacts. During construction, CTDOT will ensure that residents are informed of construction schedules and potential impacts.
- How can I make a comment to the Program?
- Why is it named the Walk Bridge?
While commonly referred to as the "Walk Bridge" by the public, the structure’s official name is the "Norwalk River Railroad Bridge, Bridge No. 04288R, MP 41.5".
Over time, "Norwalk River Bridge" was shortened to "Walk Bridge" that is commonly used today. Similarly, the movable "Saga" bridge up the line in Westport, refers to the Saugatuck River over which the rail line passes.
Internally, railroad companies and operations use numbers to identify specific locations along the tracks and bridges. No. 4288R MP 41.5 refers to the Walk Bridge’s specific location, used internally for railroad operations.
- Who is on the Project Team?
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is implementing the Walk Bridge Program in cooperation with the Federal Transit Administration and Metro-North Railroad. In 2014, CTDOT selected HNTB as the Design Consultant for the Walk Bridge Program. In 2015, the CTDOT completed the Walk Bridge Program Team by selecting Cianbro-Middlesex Joint Venture (CMJV) as the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) and WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff as Program Management Consultant.
The Walk Bridge Program team also includes Ammann & Whitney, Hardesty & Hanover, HDR Inc., CME Group, Keville Enterprises and Allegro Construction Services.
- How is CTDOT coordinating the Walk Bridge Program with other construction projects in the Norwalk area?
CTDOT and the Walk Bridge Program team are meeting with municipal leaders, private developers, and project sponsors to coordinate with other planned construction projects, including repairs on the Yankee Doodle and Stroffolino Bridges, the General Growth Partners "SoNo Collection" mall and city projects.
Coordination with other projects will take place throughout the Walk Bridge Program with the goal of reducing construction impacts for residents, businesses and commuters.