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Railroad BridgeCompleted On Schedule



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Railroad Bridge

Completed On Schedule

By Dottie Evans

Newtown residents and town officials are heaving a collective sigh of relief because the beaten and battered Church Hill Road railroad bridge is gone, and a newer, better bridge is in place.

The project seems to have been successfully completed. All that remains is tidying up the construction area and waiting for the grass to grow on the embankments and on the nearby American Wire property.

Ever since the bridge replacement project was launched in the fall of 2002, and while work was suspended during the long, snowy winter, Newtown drivers and public officials adopted a watch and wait mode. They hoped work would resume when Department of Transportation (DOT) officials said it would –– in April 2003.

Sure enough, by the second week in April, workers from Mohawk Construction of Newington were assembling materials and heavy equipment at the site. They had waited for the railroad crew to complete the track-raising preliminaries. Now, it was time for the higher span to be set in place.

The old bridge barely cleared 12 feet, 7 inches. According to Rich Rudaitis, Department of Transportation (DOT) state inspector, the bottom of the new span is at least 15 feet off the ground, allowing plenty of clearance for the largest container trucks.

“It all went fairly smoothly, and we came very close to budget,” Mr Rudaitis said.

The fiscal bottom line was $2.8 million, and the project had been budgeted for $2.7 million. The federal government paid 80 percent and the state paid 20 percent.

An impressive array of cranes gathered for the momentous changeover and placement of the new span, a maneuver that occurred during a driving rainstorm on summer’s eve, June 21. Over the next ten days, two-way traffic was slowed to a single lane while workers secured the new bridge and blasted out the old concrete abutments.

The new underpass is wider and higher, affording drivers going both ways on Church Hill Road an improved view. There is also a paved sidewalk under the bridge, allowing pedestrians a safe passage along the north side of Church Hill Road.

Fred Hurley, Newtown Director of Public Works, is more than satisfied with the results.

“Everybody is very pleased with the sight line improvements, especially for those coming in from the side roads. I’ve heard some very good, positive comments,” Mr Hurley said, speaking from his office Tuesday morning.

“They’re doing a pretty good job of restoration and general cleanup. I’m just glad I don’t hear of any more trucks getting hit,” Mr Hurley added.

Over the years, countless truck drivers had miscalculated their ability to negotiate their vehicles under the tight space, resulting in near weekly collisions with the bridge.

“The land on either side is being restored. They had construction easements in order to do the work,” Mr Hurley explained.

“Finally, the work went forward on schedule, but it took a while,” Mr Hurley understated.

“I remember standing out there ten or 12 years ago with Toby Moffitt, who was a congressman when this was the sixth district, and hearing him say he would take care of the problem.

“These things have a life of their own. It has to be the right time for the town and for the state. There needs to be the right budget hole for it to go forward. When it did go, it went easily,” he commented.

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