Bridge work, Main Street, traffic: What more does the state have planned?

Power shovels and dump trucks, workers in hard hats, roads dug up and long lines of traffic — waiting, waiting. What more does the state have planned in Ridgefield?

The bridge work on Route 35 by the Fox Hill Condominiums will go on until next winter or spring. State work on a Route 7 bridge in Branchville is slated for next spring and summer, but with work done only on weekends. And there’s the Main Street project that a local committee has been working with state planners on — who knows when that’ll actually start holding up traffic, but it’s at least a year off.

And that’s about all the State Department of Transportation (DOT) has planned for Ridgefield, according to John Dunham, district engineer.

“We have two active projects now, two active contracts,” Dunham told The Press.

Those would be the bridge work by Fox Hill that’s been tying up traffic with some regularity, and the Route 7 bridge — just a stone’s throw north of the intersection of Route 102 — in Branchville.

The Route 35 bridge job started as a $2.5-million project, but it’s now projected to cost $3.2 million after a $680,000 change order was added to accommodate the unanticipated relocation of a sewer line.

“From a 20,000-foot view, we’re hopeful to switch to stage two in August of this year,” Dunham said. “What that means is half the bridge will be completed.”

Route 35

Work is being done on the southbound lane — the recreation center side of the road. Southbound traffic has been moved to the northbound lane, on the Fox Hill side. And northbound traffic is diverted onto the temporary roadway and bridge by the Fox Hill pond.

Stage two will be when work on the southbound lane is done, and southbound traffic is switched back to that rebuilt half of the bridge, while work moves into the northbound lane — with northbound traffic remaining on the temporary roadway.

The switch from work in the southbound lane to work in the northbound lane — the start of stage two — is scheduled for early August 2017, Dunham said.

He’s hopeful the second half of the project will go faster.

“The current schedule is showing an April 2018 completion,” Dunham said. “In talking to my guys they’re sort of shooting to see if they can get the second half of that bridge done and opened up to traffic in this construction season — November, December of 2017 — and then clean up in 2018.”

“When they start stage two, it’ll be very similar to where they are now,” he said. “My experience with bridges: The contractor has experienced the problems … things go much more smoothly the second piece.”

Route 7 bridge

The worked planned on the bridge that takes Route 7 over the Norwalk River, just north of the Route 102 intersection in Branchville, has an estimated cost of close of $3,490,000.

Some work has been done already.

“That was the one we were slow getting started because of permit problems. We found a scour hole, a large hole under the bridge,” Dunham said. “It’s a hole in the river bottom that’s the result of high flows of water rushing through a narrow opening.

“It wasn’t something we planned on. The guys were in waders and, all of sudden, ‘Hey we’ve got a hole here.’”

But work in the river bottom required permits from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). That’s usually not quick and easy.

“Exactly what we were going to do, and how we were going to do it,” Dunham said. “That permitting process is just slow.”

It delayed the project’s start, but Dunham doesn’t expect the Route 7 bridge job — planned to be done over a series of weekends — will be as difficult or as long as the Route 35 project.

“Once we actually get going, it should be a little more straightforward. It’s a little bit smaller than the other project. We certainly don’t have all the utility conflicts.

“We expect that this construction season we’ll knock this thing out,” Dunham said.

“Starting sometime in April and finishing sometime in August.”

Ridgefield won’t be facing traffic problems on both major state highways at the same time, since the Route 35 job goes on during the week and the Route 7 work will be on weekends.

Downtown

The Main Street project that’s in the works will likely involve the relocation of the CVS shopping center driveway to face directly across to Prospect Street, and the addition of turning lanes for the Catoonah Street and Bailey Avenue intersections.

It is still in the design stages, with a team from the transportation department meeting with a committee of locals — merchants, town officials, concerned citizens — going back and forth with various design schemes that can achieve some improvement to traffic flow without damaging the look of Main Street that so many Ridgefielders treasure.

“Construction-wise, that’s probably pretty far down the road — more than a year, I’d guess,” Dunham said.

“I don’t have anything else in my long-range planning,” he added. “‘Intersection improvements’ is the only one that’s showing up in Ridgefield in the near future.

“There’s no other bridge work planned, to my knowledge, in the next couple of years.”