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Two Old Bridges Carrying U.S. 1 Across Conn./N.Y. Border Slated to Be Replaced in 2026

Mon May 20, 2024 - Northeast Edition #12
CT Post

With a new timeline in place to fix flooding problems along a river near the Connecticut-New York border, officials are now concentrating on making it safer for people walking in the area.

Funding has been secured to replace two bridges on the lower end of the Byram River, while the bridge design contract was expected to be awarded in May, said James D'Ambrosio, a spokesperson of the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

The design agreement is expected to be finalized in late 2025, with construction set to take place in 2026.

Officials plan to take down the two low-slung bridges on U.S. Highway 1 at the border of Greenwich, Conn. and Port Chester, N.Y., which create a "bottleneck" of water in the Byram River. The structures will be raised and given a modern design to allow water to flow more freely into the Long Island Sound, lessening flooding along the waterway.

The pair of stone-clad spans are owned and operated by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The initial cost to replace them is estimated at $35 million, but that could change once the design is completed, D'Ambrosio told the CT Post in Norwalk, Conn.

The West Putnam Avenue bridge was built in 1888, according to the Port Chester Historical Society. The Hillside Avenue bridge was constructed in 1926 as automobile traffic grew in the region and added infrastructure was needed. Prior to that, a wooden bridge over the river was erected in the early 1700s to connect the two neighboring communities.

"The U.S. Route 1 bridges have low roadway profiles and central piers," according to a 2020 study conducted by the USACE. "These features constrict the flow of the Byram River, cause the water surface elevation to increase upstream of the bridges and flood the Pemberwick neighborhood. Residents will continue to experience significant damage to their homes from fluvial flooding of the Byram River if no project is implemented."

Plans for the demolition of the bridges and re-routing traffic on the busy thoroughfare are moving ahead, explained D'Ambrosio. The entire project is expected to take two years, with one bridge being rebuilt each construction season while traffic is shifted to the other structure.

Bridge Work ‘Imperative' to Decrease Flooding

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., has been "helping to coordinate the local, state and federal parties involved," according to Olivia McAuliffe, one of the congressman's staff members. She added that Himes was working to ensure the USACE "remains committed to its timeline, with completion expected in 2027."

McAuliffe also noted that Himes believes the work to be imperative to "make these needed improvements to decrease flooding."

The bridge replacements became a priority after major flooding that hit the Greenwich community in the wake of Hurricane Ida in 2021. Major floods have historically plagued the Pemberwick neighborhood after storms in October 1955, June 1972, September 1975 and April 2007.

As a result, plans for replacing the bridges have been in the works for years, CT Post reported.

In speaking with the online news site, Connecticut State Rep. Steve Meskers said approval of the funding and the agreement on the schedule were positive developments which will benefit the west end of town.

"It's going to improve the flooding, with better drainage. Hopefully, it will help," he explained.

With the project given the go-ahead, state and local officials are now working on plans to maximize pedestrian safety in an area that is heavily used by pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers.

Meskers has been working with fellow Democratic State Rep. Rachel Khanna to ensure that safety is prioritized during the bridge replacements on the Connecticut side of the line.

He held a recent meeting with Greenwich's engineering staff to begin the process of making pedestrian-safety improvements.

In speaking with CT Post, Meskers said new crosswalks and flashing lights should be installed at the busy intersection. He noted that a bus stop at the site dropped off numerous passengers on U.S. 1, and a nearby ice cream shop is popular with students from the Western Middle School, who walk or bike to the store.

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