Evergreen tree plantings intended to improve aesthetics will now be included as part of an ongoing Interstate 84 dual-bridge replacement project in the Sandy Hook section.
State Representative Mitch Bolinsky (R-106) in a statement on January 22 said that “noise mitigation” and a permanent safety barrier will be part of the project where I-84 crosses over Center Street in the Riverside section.
Last October, Mr Bolinsky, First Selectman Pat Llodra, and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner (DOT) James P. Redeker met with some concerned Riverside residents to tour the Center Street area.
The officials went there to learn about the residents’ concerns stemming from the presence of I-84 in their neighborhood. Such concerns include high highway noise levels and the hazards posed by objects which fall from vehicles on I-84 and then land in the Riverside neighborhood.
Riverside residents have long sought to have highway sound-barrier walls erected along the section of I-84 that passes through their neighborhood, but DOT officials have responded that there is no money available for such sound-barrier walls.
“My office invited Commissioner Redeker to the site to hear the firsthand accounts of noise and safety concerns by the Riverside residents. Their stories are very compelling and they were well prepared to help the commissioner understand that this is more than a noise problem, it also is a dangerous place, in its current condition. Occasionally, we have debris flying off [I-84] in a place where school children are waiting for buses,” Mr Bolinsky said in the statement.
Rep Bolinsky explained that Mr Redeker’s visit to Riverside “jump-started” the DOT into taking some action on the residents’ concerns.
The state representative said he has been notified that the DOT will erect some protective fencing at the I-84 bridges as part of the ongoing bridge replacement project. The top of that new fencing will stand eight feet above the bridge decks.
The DOT’s original and current plans for the bridge project included such fencing along the right road shoulders of both eastbound and westbound I-84, according to DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick.
Also, the DOT will be planting 250 various-size evergreen trees and shrubs on the four I-84 embankment slopes near the bridges. Those plantings are planned for an about 600-foot-long section of the highway alongside both the right road shoulders and left road shoulders of both eastbound and westbound I-84, he said. Some plantings will be made on the highway median.
Such plantings are made for aesthetic reasons and do not have any noise reduction aspects, Mr Nursick said.
The new landscaping is expected to fill in quickly, and in combination with existing shade trees, continue to grow into a mature wooded area between the highway and the neighborhood near Lake Zoar, according to Rep Bolinsky.
Rep Bolinsky added, “I want to thank DOT Commissioner Redeker for following through and addressing the concerns brought forth by my constituents. The installation of a fence and trees are a good temporary resolution to noise and safety abatement issues for Newtown’s Riverside section.”
“Of course, we wanted more and, ultimately, we’ll continue to follow-up for [sound] barrier walls in the area. I understand the state’s position that, at this time, they do not have the funds for the construction of fixed sound barriers, but I do plan to keep this need before ConnDOT and hope our request will get priority reconsideration during better financial times,” he said.
In August 2012, the DOT awarded Manafort Brothers, Inc, a contract to reconstruct the two I-84 bridges at a cost of $5.9 million. The evergreen plantings are expected to add $50,000 to the project’s cost, Mr Nursick said.
The I-84 bridges have deteriorated sooner than anticipated, and thus need to be replaced. The bridges’ prestressed concrete beams are in poor condition due to cracking. The bridges were built in 1977 and 1978. Bridges typically are designed to last for 75 years of traffic service.
(This story was updated at 2 pm 1/22/14 to include the comments of DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick.)