— Jeannette Ross photos
It’s not a question of want, it’s a question of need. That’s how Wilton officials are classifying bridge replacements on Lovers Lane and Arrowhead Road.
The Board of Selectmen decided at a recent meeting to replace the two bridges after a report issued by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) rated them “poor” in quality.
Because Lovers Lane and Arrowhead Road have only one means of ingress and egress, the board deemed it a priority to replace those bridges. In addition, Lovers Lane is used by the public to access Merwin Meadows Park.
To defray the cost of replacing the bridges, the town is applying to a federal government grant program. If approved, the federal government would reimburse 80 percent of the bridge replacement costs, with the town paying the additional 20 percent.
The cost to replace the bridge on Lovers Lane is estimated at $3,172,625. After federal and state reimbursement, the net cost to the town would be $584,525.
The bridge replacement on Arrowhead Road is estimated at $3,718,010. After federal and state reimbursement, the net cost to the town would be $693,602.
In addition to federal funding, the state DOT has agreed to pay 100 percent of the design work for the bridges if the state is allowed to do that design work, said Chris Burney, director of the town’s Department of Public Works.
The design costs are budgeted at $250,000 for each bridge. The federal government would pay $200,000 for each design (80 percent), and the state would pay the $50,000 balance of each design (the town’s 20 percent expense).
The federal grant would be retroactive and the bridge expenses need to be paid first by the town and would then be reimbursed after satisfying the state that the town has met all its requirements, according to Burney.
Voters have the chance to say yes or no to the bridge projects at the adjourned town meeting vote on Saturday, May 11 (as well as the Annual Town Meeting held May 7).
There is a line on the ballot requesting $1,300,000 for bridge replacement, representing the town’s share of the costs for the Lovers Lane and Arrowhead bridges.
“The bridges have to be replaced, regardless of who pays for it,” said First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
She said the town has to commit to funding 20 percent of the project in order to secure the 80 percent federal reimbursement.
In its report, the DOT proposed a preliminary schedule for the bridge replacement plan, calling for construction to begin on March 30, 2022, and be completed by Oct. 23, 2022.
Burney believes it would be more realistic to anticipate completion in 2023.
While construction is going on, the DOT would install temporary low-load bridges until the new bridges are completed.
Sugar Hollow bridge
In addition to the bridges on Lovers Lane and Arrowhead Road, the DOT rated a third bridge in poor condition, the one on Sugar Hollow Road.
“That bridge has been closed for some time,” Frank Smeriglio, assistant director for the Department of Public Works and town engineer told the selectmen.
But the Sugar Hollow bridge is not considered a priority for replacement at this time because the road has more than one entrance. “I haven’t heard any complaints from people that live on Sugar Hollow Road,” Vanderslice told the board.
In addition, she said, there is a possibility the Sugar Hollow bridge may not need to be replaced, and its use could be discontinued. She said she would like to discuss the bridge further at an upcoming meeting.
Selectwoman Deborah McFadden suggested the board hold a meeting at the Sugar Hollow bridge before considering closing it. Vanderslice agreed, and said closing the bridge would be a big decision.
In support of going with just the Lovers Lane and Arrowhead bridge projects at this time, Burney said bridge replacement jobs are “big,” and it would be enough work for his department to manage two at one time, let alone three.