Pedestrian bridge hits cost block

The project to build a pedestrian bridge to connect the train station with Wilton Center ran into a brick wall Aug. 4, when only one contractor’s bid was made for the work and the price quoted came in at twice the amount of money available to build it.

The grant for the bridge is $500,000 and the lone construction bid was about $1.2 million, said Town Planner Bob Nerney.

Nerney told the Board of Selectmen about the problem during its Aug. 7 meeting at town hall. It was an abrupt end to a long process that had seen the applications tied up in the permit process at the State Department of Transportation and other agencies.

The Planning and Zoning Commission cleared the project for construction on June 26, finding no issues with town plans or zoning regulations.

Nerney successfully convinced the selectmen to enact a delay period in the project to find other options.

“We need maybe a two-year extension to give us an opportunity to explore other options,” Nerney said, suggesting that rebidding the project at a later time during a different construction season might result in lower prices.

Town officials never imagined the price of the bridge would be quoted so high and said they had seen a similar bridge built in Ridgefield for $200,000.

“We’re all in agreement,“ First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice told Nerney at the meeting, calling to table the project to a later date.

Nerney said it is possible the project could be modified or moved to make it cost less, but that would tie it up in bureaucracy for longer than anyone would like. As it is, the approvals for the project took about two years.

The bridge concept itself is popular with town officials and citizens.

“I think it is a very good project that will help the downtown area,” Planning and Zoning commissioner Sally Poundstone said in June.

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Joe Fiteni said the bridge will “make it easier to get from the train station to the town center.”

The project will be built with a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant that was awarded by the state in 2014.

The idea is to create a walkway that would go from the westerly parking lot of the train station, have a bridge with a 90-foot span to cross the river and floodplain, and connect to the existing pathway, which would be improved to provide pedestrian access into the town center.

The bridge would cut walking time for pedestrians, who currently get off the train, walk up Station Road to Route 7 and cross the busy Ridgefield Road intersection.