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State Slates $3 Million In Fixes For Troubled Norwalk Railroad Bridge

The Walk Bridge in Norwalk swings open to allow boats through, but mechanical problems have recently caused large delays on Metro-North when the tracks failed to line up properly when the bridge closed.
The Walk Bridge in Norwalk swings open to allow boats through, but mechanical problems have recently caused large delays on Metro-North when the tracks failed to line up properly when the bridge closed. Photo Credit: File

NORWALK, Conn. -- The state plans to make $3 million in short-term fixes to improve the reliability of the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, which failed to shut properly in two recent incidents and caused hours of delays for rail commuters on Metro-North.

The State Bond Commission is expected Friday to approve the spending to pay for the repairs recommended in a new report, Gov. Dannel Malloy said Thursday as he and Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker released the recommendations.

The 118-year-old bridge in Norwalk recently malfunctioned in two separate incidents within a two-week period.

“The New Haven Line is the busiest commuter rail line in America and one malfunctioning bridge can disrupt the entire Northeast Corridor. Because our customers – and our economy – rely on this system every day, we are implementing these fixes to increase reliability in the near term until the full replacement of the Walk Bridge can begin,” Malloy said.

“I commend the team of professionals who completed the thorough engineering evaluation of the bridge and developed these recommendations in record time, as well as the Metro-North personnel who have been manually operating the bridge without failure since we met in June to discuss the fate of the Walk Bridge.”

After holding a Walk Bridge “crisis summit” on June 9 with Metro-North, Malloy established a Short Term Action Team (STAT) charged with reviewing, investigating and determining the best approach to improve the mechanical reliability of the Walk Bridge.

The report that resulted from STAT’s work outlines a series of modifications that can be made over the next nine months that will improve the operating systems and reliability of the bridge until the bridge can ultimately be replaced. The state funding will pay for work on the devices that lift the rails and re-seat them, and other improvements that will restore the automated operation to the bridge, which swings open to allow marine traffic through Norwalk Harbor.

Redeker said the fixes will include establishing a separate drive system to open and close the movable pieces of rail that lock the bridge into place, installing electronic switches, and implementing repairs to rollers and rods in the center pier on which the bridge pivots.

A gear and shaft system will also be readjusted to properly align wedges at either end of the movable span that lock it into place. The new mechanisms will be programmed into the automation of the bridge to reduce the manpower currently needed to open the bridge.

In April, Malloy announced that Connecticut has applied for $360 million in Federal Transit Administration funding to replace the Walk Bridge and expects to receive an answer to that request by this fall.

The full STAT report and recommendations may be found here .

The State Bond Commission is scheduled to vote on the funding for repairs at its meeting Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Hartford.