New Haven Officials Want a Better View From New ’Q’ Bridge

Wed March 09, 2005 - Northeast Edition

NEW HAVEN, CT (AP) The proposed new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven will have soaring cables and brightly lit towers. But the plans don’t call for much of a view of New Haven and its waterways.

The new “Q” Bridge on Interstate 95 was designed with 42-in. high concrete barriers for guardrails, which some architects advising the design process said would rob drivers of any view entering the city.

Those architects would prefer a see-through guardrail that would give motorists a view of New Haven’s skyline, harbor and rivers.

“These barriers will block your view of everything,” said New Haven Architect David Barkin, chairman of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge Advisory Committee.

“What makes for a good bridge is knowing that you’re bridging something,” Barkin said. “If you just think you are on an elevated roadway it’s a failure, and with these guardrails, that’s exactly what they do.”

But the state Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) said it has finished the design and settled on the “Jersey” barriers. Open guardrails would cost too much to build and maintain, a ConnDOT official said.

“We estimate it would cost in the range of $500,000 more to put in open rail parapets,” said Tom Harley, manager of Consultant Design of ConnDOT.

City planners are baffled by the decision, arguing that $1 billion is being spent to make the bridge a showpiece and now the state is skimping on getting the most attractive guardrails.

Politicians and civic groups in Pittsburgh waged a colossal fight several years ago to save skyline views during reconstruction of the downtown Fort Pitt Bridge.

As with the “Q” bridge, design for the Pittsburgh span called for 42-in. Jersey barriers along the sides.

The community found that intolerable, and with a $113,000 grant from the Heinz Foundation, launched a design study to invent a new type of see-through barrier that would meet federal safety standards.

The result was the so-called Pennsylvania Barrier, consisting of the smallest concrete base allowed by federal safety regulations, topped off by two steel rail tubes.

The “Q” Bridge project will go out to bid this fall and be under construction by summer 2006. It will be complete by 2012.