The state project to replace the Norwalk River bridge in Ridgefield, which will affect traffic to and from Wilton for at least five weekends, has hit an extended delay, probably until the spring.
Engineers are still figuring ways to fill a large scour hole that opened up under the bridge before work can proceed, said John S. Dunham, regional engineer for the state Department of Transportation. The work was to have started no later than August, but that month has come and gone without a shovel being lifted.
“When the contractor first visited the site and waded under the bridge they discovered a very deep hole, about four or five feet deep, under the bridge,” Dunham said in an email, when asked about the project delay.
The scour hole was caused by heavy rains, he said. “These heavy rains increase the flow of water under the bridge which in turn wash away the soil in the river bottom. This is something that can happen around bridge structures because of the narrowing of the waterway the bridge creates. These are old bridges which were weren’t originally designed to handle these large flows of water.”
The DOT couldn’t just fill it in without getting a revision to its inland wetland permit, Dunham said. “These are some of the legal regulations we have to build the project under,” he said.
Once the DOT got that needed permit, and the contractor proposed his method of filling the hole, the DOT got resistance from its own environmental planning professionals. “We are close to getting his method approved for filling the hole,” Dunham said.
This project was designed anticipating a full detour, meaning Route 7 would be closed in both directions from Route 35 in Ridgefield to Route 102 in Branchville, over a series of five weekends. The reason for this was to eliminate alternating one-way traffic which would not be practical given the high traffic volume in the area.
So now the project may be off until the spring.
“I attended a meeting with the contractor last week to discuss his schedule and at this point we may wait till next spring to start the weekend closures. We should still be able to finish the project near the original completion date of Sept. 18, 2017, if we do this,” Dunham said.