End in sight: New Route 35 bridge begins taking two-way traffic

After two years of cars and trucks lined up, waiting, waiting, traffic is again flowing in both directions across the new $3.2-million Route 35 bridge. But work — and periodic alternating one-way traffic — isn’t completely done at the project.

“Lane closures will be required through the winter, but we will work with the contractor to minimize those as much as possible,” said John Dunham, district engineer with the state Department of Transportation.

The work that remains is mostly tearing down the “temporary bridge” that was created near the pond in front of the Fox Hill condominiums to serve a second lane of traffic during the months that work closed first one and then the other lane on the old bridge.

“The contractor will work through the winter months to demolish the temporary road and bridge,” Dunham said. “This will require some alternating one-way traffic. Potentially up to 30 more days, depending on the contractor’s productivity.”

The rebuilt bridge reopened to both directions of traffic on Saturday, Nov. 18. But the lane closings and alternating one-way traffic continued on Monday and Tuesday of last week for work that Dunham described as “beam rail, pavement markings and plug joints.”

The contractor, Bloomfield-based Baier Construction, is expected to have the last loose ends of the project tied up in the spring.

“Drainage, curb, sidewalk, landscaping, and cleanup will be in the spring of 2018,” Dunham said in a Nov. 18 email.

Marconi’s frustration

“What bridge?” First Selectman Rudy Marconi joked when asked about it.

“I’ve taken a beating on this,” he said. “Many people don’t realize that this is a state project over which we have zero jurisdiction, because it’s a state highway.

“The problem is the way in which the state has handled that project, and that’s nothing short of pathetic. Their traffic control has been a disgrace,” he said Monday.

The town will be wary of future projects proposed by the Department of Transportation, he said.

“Any project that the DOT proposes, going forward, is certainly going to be met with skepticism, and a feeling of doubt that they, the state of Connecticut, can get a project done,” Marconi said.

“Residents of our community have sat for a half-hour, and that is almost impossible on a construction project. So something has really, really made a mess of that project in terms of providing for proper traffic flow,” he said.

“I guess the only consolation is that we are toward the end of it.”

The Route 35 bridge reconstruction began in the fall of 2015 and hit a major snag in the spring of 2016, when problems developed around a sewer line, which had to be relocated — halting work for a time, slowing progress, and pushing the project’s total cost up from $2.5 million to $3.2 million.

For much of this summer, the driving public’s patience was further tested by another state bridge repair project, this one on Route 7 in Branchville. That project was also delayed by an unanticipated problem — a scour hole hollowed out by the river flowing under bridge.

When the Branchville work got going it involved the total shutdown of Route 7 just north of Route 102  from late Friday night to early Monday morning on several weekends from late spring to early fall. But the Route 7 bridge work ended up moving more quickly than the Route 35 job, with its temporary bridge and sewer line relocation.

Still, the new Route 35 bridge began carrying both northbound and southbound traffic last weekend, without either direction having to use the temporary bridge — or stop and wait for the other direction to pass.