Rochambeau Bridge Rehabilitation Underway
NEWTOWN/SOUTHBURY — The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) 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.
The project consists of the rehabilitation of the two bridges that collectively comprise the Rochambeau Bridge. The existing bridges have extra-wide shoulders, so there is sufficient room to place two-way traffic, with two lanes in each direction, on one of the bridges while the other bridge is reconstructed, according to CT DOT.
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 median of I-84.
Work in the river will take place using trestles and barges. A minimum 75-foot channel width for boaters will be maintained at all times, except for major demolition and steel erection work, which requires the advanced approval of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), US Coast Guard, and Lake Zoar Authority.
The project was awarded in May to Middlesex Corporation at a cost of $52,873,000. Work began in mid-June. It is scheduled to be completed by December 2023.
Motorists are advised that two lanes of traffic in each direction will be maintained during peak periods, from 6 am to 8 pm, with lane closures only allowed at night.
The contractor will be allowed to halt I-84 traffic for a period not to exceed ten minutes to perform necessary work for the removal of existing bridge superstructure, and for the delivery, erection, and setting of structural steel, between midnight and 5 am on all non-holiday days.
The Rochambeau Bridge was one of two spans identified in September 2018 in a statewide report on structurally deficient bridges. The report identified the eastbound space of the Rochambeau Bridge as one of two of the top ten 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 Route 34. That location is not a traditional bridge, but a large culvert pipe covered with soil; the highway surface runs over that. That bridge replacement has already been completed.
Both fall under the authority of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. According to CT DOT 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 underway” at that time.
He was assured by engineers at a design meeting he attended 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.
Kevin Nursick, director of communications for Connecticut DOT, told The Newtown Bee in 2018 that it is normal and expected for each bridge to reach a point where it has become 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 December 6, 1982, while standing on the shoulder of I-84 near Exit 15 in Southbury with a stopped motorist. Lt Carney was on his way home, assisting the motorist.
On September 24, 2009, a plaque honoring Lt Carney was posted, and the westbound portion of the bridge on I-84 between Southbury and Newtown was named in honor of the state trooper.