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One Span of Connecticut's Gold Star Bridge Gets $158M From Feds for Needed Repairs

Mon January 09, 2023 - Northeast Edition #2 & WFSB-TV

The Gold Star Memorial Bridge, as seen from the New London side.(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge, as seen from the New London side.(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Connecticut's Gold Star Memorial Bridge, spanning the Thames River to link the cities of New London and Groton, is receiving a much needed $158 million from the Biden Administration to help in its rehabilitation., a New Haven TV station, reported that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg made a stop in New London Jan. 4 to officially announced the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for the northbound portion of the bridge.

The project is now expected to be completed a year ahead of schedule.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had noted earlier in the week that the grant was coming and would be part of the first round of large bridge grants from President Biden's competitive Bridge Investment Program.

The funding will now go to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) to pay for the bridge's improvements. The structure is part of the Interstate 95 corridor and is a vital connection for people and goods traveling between New York and New England.

The Gold Star Memorial Bridge is made up of a pair of steel truss bridges, totaling 11 highway lanes, which carry both I-95 and U.S. Highway 1 across the river. The bridge's south span opened in 1943, while the northbound span was completed 30 years later. It is the largest structure in the state with more than 1 million sq. ft. of deck area, and the longest bridge in Connecticut at 5,031 ft.

The five-lane northbound span carries 60,000 vehicles a day between New London and Groton.

"As everybody here knows, the bridge is not in good enough shape," Buttigieg said. "It's about to turn 80 years old. Parts [of it] have been given a rating of poor."

In fact, noted that the bridge has only a 40-ton weight limit, forcing many trucks with heavy loads to travel the long way around.

"Every day, as was mentioned, we have to make the decision of taking that 17-mile loop around or loading our trucks underweight," said Carolina Cavalcante, president of Tilcon Connecticut, a leading supplier of stone, hot mix asphalt and concrete in the state.

Federal Grant Allows CTDOT to Complete Rehab

With the funds in hand, CTDOT plans to rehabilitate the bridge in two phases. The initial work began last spring to replace more than 160,000 rivets with high strength bolts and will continue until June 2025.

A month after that, the second phase of the contract is slated to begin and is likely to last for another four years, according to CTDOT.

"The rehabilitation will address structural repairs, increase load capacity and eliminate a load restriction for overweight vehicles," FHWA noted in a news release.

In addition to alleviating congestion and safety issues for communities in southeastern Connecticut, upgrades to the Gold Star Bridge will mitigate delays in the movement of freight that currently raise costs for American families, according to Hartford's WFSB-TV.

"Safe, modern bridges ensure that first responders can get to calls more quickly, shipments reach businesses on time, and drivers can get to where they need to go," explained Buttigieg. "The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to award this historic funding to modernize large bridges that are not only pillars of our economy, but also iconic symbols of their states' past and future."

WFSB-TV reported that CTDOT also will add a new multi-use path to the northbound Gold Star Bridge span to foster bike-sharing and pedestrian access to transit services.

As part of the selection process for this first round of the federal Bridge Investment Program grants, priority consideration was given to projects ready for construction, as well as those that need pre-construction funding, and would benefit from a multi-year grant agreement.

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