Depot Road Bridge may reopen

Depot Road Bridge, connecting the north end of Branchville train station with Route 7, maybe reopened after new examinations suggest its stronger that previously thought.

Depot Road Bridge, connecting the north end of Branchville train station with Route 7, maybe reopened after new examinations suggest its stronger that previously thought.

Macklin Reid / Hearst connecticut Media

Depot Road Bridge may soon be reopened to at least some traffic — that’s what Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi is thinking. It’ll depend on an engineeering report.

“We’re hoping that it will be opened to cars — how soon will depend on how quickly the engineers get us the information and the OK, so that we don’t have a major issue — liability,” Marconi said.

“We’ll open it up for cars, but I don’t know about trucks,” he added.

The talk of re-opening the bridge, which was closed early last fall due to safety concerns, follows an analysis of the make-up of the bridge’s concrete slab. The results of that suggest the bridge is stronger than was thought after last fall’s analysis by engineers from the state and a consultant — which were based on an exterior examinations of the bridge.

Marconi discussed the bridge — which provides the more northerly entrance-exit from the Branchville Railroad Station to Route 7 — on July 17 and again July 24 in interviews with The Press.

The bridge has finally been looked at with ground penetrating radar — providing what Marconi described as an X-ray of the bridge.

The bridge does contain “rebar” — steel reinforcement bars within the concrete.

“We did the X-ray of it, and then dug up each end of the bridge to do an assessment, looking at it in profile to see how thick the concrete was, and to see if there’s any rebar,” Marconi said. “...It’s about 30 inches thick with some steel rebar in there, which gives it quite a bit of structural integrity.

“But the engineers have to put that into their calculations to see the maximum amount of weight that the bridge can withstand — can hold,” Marconi said.

Missing stones

Worries about the bridge were outlined last September in a letter from former town engineer Charles Fisher, who in his retirement still does work for the town as a consultant. He wrote to the selectmen outlining concerns based reviews of the bridge by the structural engineering consultant CME Associates and also a report from the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

“CME noted that the stacked stone arch was in serious condition with two large voids underneath the bridge created by missing stones,” Fisher wrote. “Since the last inspection, CME noted that the fill material between the stone arch and the overlying concrete slab continued to erode.

“Due to the condition of the structure and the unavailability of plans for the 109-year-old structure, CME was unable to assess a load rating for the bridge. Based on the inspector’s findings and the condition of the stone arch, CME recommended that the bridge be closed to vehicular traffic until it would be replaced.

“The state DOT noted similar concerns with respect to the bridge’s condition,” Fisher said. “The DOT noted deficiencies of the bridge’s concrete deck including hollowness throughout, hairline cracks, large scale spalls, efflorescence and water leakage, and ‘punk’ concrete.

“Within its report the state noted that the average daily traffic count (ADT) was 600 vehicles per day … of that amount, it was estimated that three percent of the bridge’s ADT was attributed to truck traffic.”

Replacement plans

There are joint town-state plans to replace the bridge as part of a project that would also rebuild the Portland Avenue Bridge at the other — southern — end of the Branchville train station.

There is at least one interested party — the owners of the storage facility on the east side of the railroad tracks — that is hopeful the engineers’ new analysis will approve use of the bridge by trucks as well cars, Marconi said.

Marconi didn’t know if opening the bridge to truck traffic will be possible.

“There’ve been emails back and forth. We had a lot of questions from one of the property owners down there,” Marconi said. “We haven’t received the final review, the rating. We’re still waiting…

“But I can tell you there is rebar in the bridge, and approximately 30 inches of concrete, which is pretty thick.”