The purpose of the Walk Bridge Project is to restore or replace the existing deteriorated bridge with a resilient bridge structure that enhances the safety and reliability of rail service, offers operational flexibility and ease of maintenance and provides for increased capacity and efficiencies of rail transportation along the Northeast Corridor (NEC), while maintaining or improving navigational capacity and dependability in the Norwalk River. Upgrades to the Walk Bridge, through rehabilitation or replacement, are needed to increase bridge reliability, incorporate bridge redundancy and provide a sustainable bridge for significant weather events, thereby accommodating current and future rail and marine traffic.
In 1990, a significant rehabilitation was conducted on the bridge. By 2011 a pattern of failures became apparent, and in 2014 the bridge failed within a two-week period on two separate occasions. These failures prompted the Commissioner of Transportation to sign an Emergency Declaration letter on July 8, 2014, resulting in the need to replace the Walk Bridge.
Local and Regional Economy
The Walk Bridge is a vital link in the Northeast Corridor connecting Washington, DC to New York City and Boston, MA. Intercity and high speed passenger rail service on the NEC serves more intercity travelers within the Northeast than all airlines combined. Per the NEC Commission, the NEC carries more than 700,000 passengers each day for business, recreation, and personal purposes and carries a workforce that contributes $50 billion annually to the national gross domestic product. An unexpected loss of all NEC service for one day alone could cost the nation nearly $100 million in added highway congestion, productivity losses and other transportation impacts.
Commuter rail service to New York City is integral to the Connecticut economy, including communities as far north as Waterbury and Danbury. Shoreline residents, like those in Norwalk, depend on reliable rail service for work and personal travel, while local businesses rely on rail service to transport their employees and customers.
For the Walk Bridge, resiliency is the ability to withstand extreme conditions that may otherwise compromise its functionality. Unlike the existing bridge, the replacement is a safer and more reliable structure designed to meet current standards for flooding, storms, powerful winds, extreme temperatures and seismic activity.
A railroad bridge must maintain reliable train service at all times. When the existing bridge fails to close, all four tracks are taken out of service. The replacement bridge is a redundant structure offering two spans that operate independently. If one span carrying two tracks experiences an outage, service is maintained on the other set. This redundancy increases maintenance flexibility by allowing one set of tracks to be taken out of service for maintenance while rail service is unimpeded on the other set.
Navigational Capacity & Dependability
Residents, businesses, first responders and Coast Guard personnel rely on the Norwalk River for deliveries, safety protocols, and leisure. The river is a federally designated navigable waterway and, as such, there is a legal mandate for the Walk Bridge Replacement to allow for navigability on the river. The new bridge meets Coast Guard guidance advising that a 60’ vertical clearance equal to that of the Yankee Doodle Bridge (I-95), upstream, meets the river’s reasonable navigation needs.
Without replacement, the existing bridge will cause increasingly frequent train delays or even full service shutdowns, negatively impacting rail and marine traffic. New infrastructure will reduce the costs incurred by correcting bridge failures and maintaining a deteriorating bridge. The new bridge will be built for a reliable 100 year lifespan.
Passenger rail service provides an alternative to highway travel on the congested Interstate Route 95 (I-95), which serves the same corridor as the NEC in Connecticut. The Walk Bridge project enables reliable train service and reduces reliance on automobile and truck travel, resulting in air quality benefits and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A long-term failure of the Walk Bridge would result in an additional 125,000 daily commuters with added vehicle emissions. Additionally, failure of the Walk Bridge would increase truck traffic to replace the existing freight service on the railroad and navigable waterway.
Learn more about the Program’s scope and funding.