The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) has commenced construction activities for the rehabilitation of the Rochambeau Bridge, which carries Interstate 84 over the Lake Zoar section of the Housatonic River. The bridge also straddles the boundary between Newtown and Southbury in the eastern edge of the state.
The project consists of the rehabilitation of the two bridges that collectively comprise the Rochambeau Bridge. The existing bridges have extra-wide shoulders, giving the CTDOT sufficient room to place two-way traffic with a pair of lanes in each direction on one of the bridges while the other is structure is reconstructed.
The project was awarded in May to Middlesex Corporation in Littleton, Mass., at a cost of $52,873,000. Work began in mid-June and is scheduled to be completed by December 2023.
The first major traffic shift will place both directions of traffic on I-84 eastbound utilizing crossovers currently built in the median of the highway. The I-84 westbound bridge will then be partially demolished and reconstructed while this shift is in place.
Once the new westbound bridge is completed, traffic will be shifted onto it while the I-84 eastbound bridge is reconstructed, with temporary crossovers built in a similar manner, in the interstate's median.
Work in the Housatonic River will take place using trestles and barges. A minimum 75-ft. channel width for boaters will always be maintained, except for major demolition and steel erection work. Those tasks will require the advanced approval of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Lake Zoar Authority.
The Rochambeau Bridge was one of two spans identified in September 2018 in a statewide report on structurally deficient bridges. The eastbound span also was listed as one of two of the top 10 most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in Fairfield County.
The other was the westbound span that carries vehicles over the Pole Bridge Brook east of CT Route 34. That was not a traditional bridge, but a large culvert pipe covered with soil, with the highway surface over it. That bridge replacement has already been completed.
According to CTDOT data, both spans carry an average traffic volume of 36,650 vehicles per day.
Newtown Public Works Director Fred Hurley told The Newtown Bee in September 2018 that both bridges "have existing projects under way" at that time. He was assured by engineers at a design meeting the previous winter that the deficiencies of the bridges were "not time critical but are more planned upgrading and maintenance.
"We have asked for lane closure information because we pointed out the impact to our streets when there are backups on I-84," Hurley also stated at the time.
Kevin Nursick, director of communications of CTDOT, told the newspaper in 2018 that its normal and expected for each bridge to reach a point where it becomes structurally deficient.
"This is not a safety issue, but a benchmark point at which the bridge's condition triggers an encompassing project to either rehabilitate or replace it," he said.
Although both bridges are referred to locally as the Rochambeau Bridge, the westbound span was renamed in 2009 to honor a late Newtown resident and Connecticut State Trooper.
Lt. Thomas Carney, commanding officer of Troop L in Litchfield, was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer on Dec. 6, 1982, while standing on the shoulder of I-84 near Exit 15 in Southbury while assisting a stopped motorist. A plaque honoring Carney was posted near the bridge in 2009.