Pedestrian bridge connecting Wilton center and train station eyed for summer start

An aerial view of Wilton Center, the area which is the focus of a master plan subcomittee and where a pedestrian bridge is anticipated to be built to better connect the area for pedestrians.

An aerial view of Wilton Center, the area which is the focus of a master plan subcomittee and where a pedestrian bridge is anticipated to be built to better connect the area for pedestrians.

Bryan Haeffele / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Town residents may soon see a major project in the heart of its downtown thought to create a connectivity to the area that has not been seen before.

A pedestrian bridge over the Norwalk River that has been in the works for years is set to go out to bid Friday. It is planned to connect Merwin Meadows Park and the surrounding Wilton Center with the Wilton Train Station.

Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio said Thursday that this long-anticipated project has been batted around long before he came to town in 2019.

When Smeriglio came on that year, the “project initially went out to bid” but came back with higher costs than initially expected. Then, some of the building plans were reworked and buffed while the town applied for a different grant to fund the project.

Funding for the bridge will come through a Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program, or LOTCIP, grant that Smeriglio said will not only cover 100 percent of the costs, but will include an added 10 percent of the total cost for possible contingencies and another 10 percent for construction administration.

The town initially received a $1.4 million grant for the project in February 2020. Town officials did not release current estimates for what the project would cost.

The bidding window is anticipated to close April 22.

“The bridge contractors will come in and they will have about three weeks to ask questions” on the drawings and project, Smeriglio explained. At that point, Smeriglio said, a final price point will be determined and construction can begin not too long after.

“We anticipate construction to start in the beginning part of the summer,” Smeriglio said.

Earlier in the week, he told the Board of Selectmen that a section of land underneath the bridge will be closed to the public during construction.

While construction is anticipated to last from the beginning of the summer until December, there are also a number of “punch list” items, such as plantings, that may need to be done in the spring of 2023. Smeriglio was careful to not solidify any timeline, saying that there are many factors at play.

One of those factors is the cost and delivery of materials, which Smeriglio said are very volatile at the moment.

Smeriglio also could not definitively say if the bridge could be opened in December, after the construction is expected to be finished, or in 2023.

“If we are able to get the project to a point where residents can walk safely, we may be able to open the bridge prior to the punch list work,” he offered cautiously.

Smeriglio said the project will have a big impact and improve connectivity in the town’s center.

“I think its very important,” he said. He noted that the town wants to connect existing and future residential developments along Danbury Road to the town center, as well as provide another option of parking at the Wilton Train Station for potential shoppers and diners in Wilton Center.

While Smeriglio and First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice believe the Planning and Zoning Commission to have already voiced its support for the project in the past, they vowed to check to make sure everything is copacetic once the bid is received.