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Gov. Malloy announces $465M funding plan for replacing aging Norwalk bridge

Kaomi Goetz

The 118-year-old Walk Bridge in Norwalk, Conn., will be replaced. On Thursday, Connecticut officials announced a funding plan to replace the bridge, which is vital to the Metro-North New Haven line.  

Built in 1896, the bridge has seen better days. It's now decayed and prone to failures. The four-track bridge broke down twice this past summer within a two-week period. The malfunction left Metro-North passengers stranded for hours.

Officials successfully lobbied to get $161 million in federal funding from the 2014 Hurricane Sandy Competitive Resilience Program to replace the bridge, but the total coast is $465 million. 

Standing near the bridge, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters the state will bond $158 million. The balance will come from a $146 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. 

"When it is done, this project will be funded with 34 percent state funds and 66 percent federal funds, and for that I am proud," Malloy said.

Connecticut owns the bridges, tracks, power lines and signals used by Metro-North in the state, but much of the system is in bad shape from years of neglect and competing priorities. The Regional Plan Association estimates the New Haven line needs $3.6 billion to make needed upgrades over the next six years. 

The commuter line is also the nation's busiest. It's key to the state's economic recovery. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said it's not about spending but investing.

"The rail system is only as good as its weakest link. This bridge will be repaired and rebuilt, but there are other bridges; there's track. This investment has to be ongoing," he said.

In the meantime, transit officials said work is being done to keep the swing bridge operational. Construction of the new bridge is slated for completion by 2020. The state D0T is currently working on designs. Officials said the new bridge will likely be a vertical lift that opens on one side. 

John Hartwell is with the advocacy group Connecticut Commuter Rail Council. He said commuters need to be prepared.

"It's going to be a difficult build," he cautioned. "No one should be under any illusion that this is going to magically transform," he said. 

The DoT said it's also designing plans to replace three other movable bridges. Funding for those projects has not been finalized.


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