Branchville bridges: Town meeting to decide on $455,000 in replacement costs
The Branchville TOD — “transit oriented development” — project has expanded to include a second bridge reconstruction, and is expected to get under way in the coming year.
“Originally, there was only one bridge planned for replacement, that one being the Portland Avenue Bridge,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “Subsequent to all the necessary approvals, allocation of grant money from both the federal government and state of Connecticut, we were informed the Depot Road Bridge had to be closed — which has happened.”
Since the closing of the Depot Road Bridge last fall, the reconstruction of that bridge — the more northerly of the two bridges into Branchville Train Station from Route 7 — has moved up on the town’s agenda.
The plan now is for that project to be done first, and voters will be asked to approve $455,000 for the project at a town meeting Wednesday, Jan. 8, starting at 7:30 lower level Town Hall.
The replacement of 109-year-old Depot Road Bridge will be part of a two-bridge repair package that will cost local taxpayers close to $800,000 or $900,000.
More than a year ago, voters approved $442,000 as the town’s share of a projected $2.2 million replacement of the Portland Avenue Bridge at the south end of the train station — and it is there that a new traffic light will be added to Route 7 in Branchville.
Money for a new bridge at Depot Road is figured as potentially a $455,000 town cost — representing a 20 percent local share of a job projected to cost a total of $2,275,000.
The hope is that the bridge will still only cost the town $354,000 — a 20 percent share based on just the construction cost of $1,770,000.
“The good news is that that bridge replacement of Depot Road will take place as part of the entire Portland Avenue Bridge replacement project, so under this new project both bridges will be replaced,” Marconi said.
And they’re both part of the longer-range Branchville TOD project — under which the town is fixing up Branchville to accommodate envisioned future growth that officials hope will prove to be a cushion against future tax increases by boosting the town’s tax base.
“The most important thing — it’s all private property. We don’t own any of the land,” Marconi said. “We lease the Branchville Train Station. The only thing we own down there is Branchville Elementary School.
“We need to look at the nonresidential part of our community and how do we grow it,” Marconi said. “And when you look at that today, there are types of housing that can fill that void with a relative high profit if you want to look at it that way, for the taxpayers: age-restricted housing is one such way of achieving revenue growth with a minimal amount of expenses.”
So that might be what eventually hits Branchville, although problems of sewage disposal will have to be solved if major growth is to take place.
The Branchville TOD might be viewed as table-setting for that private development.
“There’ll be mixed housing and there’ll be retail development probably beyond my years,” Marconi said. “I’ll be at that position of: ‘Rudy who?’ — well gone. What we’re doing today is building the foundation for that possibility,”
This involves replacing the two bridges, and also a variety of street amenities that were part of the Branchville TOD’s original vision.
“To create a more pedestrian-friendly community in Branchville. That includes sidewalks, street lamps much the same as we have in downtown Ridgefield today,” Marconi said.
There’ll be a rebuilding of the Route 102-Route 7 intersection “recognizing the need for pedestrian movement in and around that area,” Marconi said, as well as the planned replacement of both the Depot Road and Portland Avenue bridges.
“Portland Ave. gets widened, with a new bridge and new traffic light — not only the bridge, but the rail crossing is wider, allowing for left-hand turns onto West Branchville Road,” Marconi said..
Among the pedestrian-friendly improvements will be sidewalks, a short way up Branchville Road (Route 102) on the west side of Route 7 from Branchville Center south down to the Wilton town line.
“The cost is around $8 million — both projects,” Marconi said,”project one being the sidewalks .”
The town’s share of the $8 million Branchville TOD is projected to be something over $1 million.
“It’s a total cost of approximately $8 million,” Marconi said. “It’ll be approximately $1,172,000, or around 15% of the total project. The rest will be grants mainly from the federal government and the state of Connecticut.”