Rochambeau Bridge Renovations Pass Halfway Point
The rehabilitation of the Rochambeau Bridge reached a significant milestone last month.
The project consists of the rehabilitation of Bridges 01218 and 04180 (collectively called the “Rochambeau Bridge”), which carry I-84 over the Housatonic River. The bridge also straddles the boundary between Newtown and Southbury.
The existing bridges have extra-wide shoulders, so there has been sufficient room to place bidirectional traffic, with two lanes in each direction, on one of the bridges while the other bridge is reconstructed. The first major traffic shift placed both directions of I-84 traffic on I-84 eastbound utilizing crossovers built in the median of I-84. The I-84 westbound bridge was partially demolished and reconstructed while that shift was in place.
Work in the river is taking place using trestles and barges. A minimum 75-foot channel width for boaters is being 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 reached a milestone in July, when the westbound bridge was completed and work began constructing a new crossover. The crossover allows east and westbound traffic on the new bridge.
Christopher Zukowski, project manager of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said that shift marked the halfway point of the project. Zukowski that month also said crews “expect to have the eastbound bridge up by the end of this year.”
Andrew Walter, project manager of Middlesex Corp., Littleton, Mass., the contractor on the job, in July added, “We completed the westbound bridge and now we’re working on the crossover to switch traffic. We’re aiming to get the second bridge erected before winter — that’s the goal.”
During the week of August 8-12, crews completed removing structural steel from the project, completed rebar placement for Pier 2 cap and poured concrete there, chipped existing concrete at the cap of Pier 3, set formwork for the Pier 3 stem, continued Abutment 2 modifications, and placed temporary bents in river for steel erection.
The contractor is currently completing a temporary bent for steel in Span 2, which is also the location’s navigation channel. The temporary bent will be in place until late September. It will be well-lit and delineated so boaters can see it well in advance. A 75-foot channel will be maintained between the bent and Pier 2.
Some steel girders will begin to be delivered to the site within the next two weeks. Steel erection is currently scheduled to begin right after Labor Day weekend.
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.
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.
The rehabilitation project was awarded in May 2020 to Middlesex Corporation at a cost of $52,873,000. Work is scheduled to be completed by December 2023.
Per the construction contract, two lanes of traffic in each direction are being maintained during peak periods, from 6 am to 8 pm, with lane closures only allowed at night.
The contractor is 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.