Questions raised about joint-funding for Rowayton bridge work
Darien and Norwalk's top officials are discussing the possible demolition of Old Tokeneke Bridge, which could cost Darien $140,000.
Norwalk's Common Council voted to appropriate $100,000 to tear down the bridge, and an additional $40,000 to construct a new pedestrian bridge in its place.
The $140,000 appropriation was approved under the assumption that the town of Darien would chip in the same amount, according to Republican First Selectman Dave Campbell. But while recent reports have indicated that Darien has "pledged" its portion of the funding, Campbell said this is not the case.
But Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said Wednesday that he received an e-mail from Campbell, in which Campbell said he would make the funds available.
The e-mail, obtained by the Darien News, reads:
"Dick, I will find the money. I need a firm price with no cost over runs. Thanks, David."
The e-mail was sent from Campbell's BlackBerry on March 3, 2010.
"The e-mail said we would look for the money if it came to pass, basically," Campbell said. "We're not looking for the money yet because we haven't gotten any proposal from him."
The bridge, which runs over Five Mile River just north of Route 136, straddles the line between the city of Norwalk and town of Darien. It has been fenced off for several years, and traffic has been directed over the "new" bridge, a couple yards south.
"I'm not sure what they're up to, but this is also the bridge that three years ago was $600,000 to tear down; now it's down to $200,000," Campbell said during Monday night's Board of Selectmen meeting. "So until we get more information, I don't think anything is going to happen."
Norwalk's Director of Public Works, Harold Alvord, said the price has decreased from $680,000 to the current estimate of $192,450 because of discussions the city has had with the Department of Environmental Protection.
"We got the cost down significantly by getting [the DEP] to agree that the only safe way to demolish it now is to get it to drop into the river and pick the pieces out," Alvord said. "The $680,000 estimate required us to build false work beneath the bridge so nothing would fall into the water. The DEP now agrees that there is no other safe alternative other than dropping it in the water, because it is so close to collapsing."
Alvord's department requested money to demolish the bridge from Norwalk's capital fund for four years before it was granted last week.
"Some of the critical arch stones have already fallen out and others are rotating out of position," he said. "If we don't do something, the bridge will collapse under its own weight."
The best time to begin the project, which will likely take between seven and 10 days, is during the middle of the summer when water flow is down, Alvord said.
"My concern about the flow is when you drop the stones into the river, they will create a dam for a period of time. With a low-flow it's easier to pull them out and there will be less chance of any negative impact."
Darien's BOS included money for the project in its original budget request, but "then cut it out because we didn't think anything was going to happen," Campbell said. The Board of Finance approved the town's budget Monday evening, sending it forward to the RTM for its final passage at the legislative body's meeting on May 10.
If Darien officials decide they have to act sooner than later, the town "could look a the projects we have lined up and take money from one of those projects," Campbell said. "But at this point, it's too early to know whether that will happen."
Campbell said the project isn't on the front burner in Darien.
"We're not looking at putting it on the agenda at this point," he said on Wednesday afternoon.
As for the $80,000 total it would cost to construct the new bridge, Alvord said he is not yet certain when that process would begin if all the money is appropriated, but said it would be no sooner than Fiscal Year 2012.
"The $40,000 for a footbridge is something we know nothing about. That was never talked about or discussed until we heard about it in the paper on Friday, so we'll have to find out what that's all about too," Campbell said on Tuesday.
"Doing something with that bridge benefits both Darien and Norwalk, so we should all look forward to that," said Rowayton Commissioner John Igneri.
"The benefits of putting in the pedestrian bridge is, people can walk safely to the trains in the morning from Darien. They can ride bikes all day long without having to go over the main bridge, which cannot be safe for pedestrians and bikes sometimes," Igneri said.
The BOS has not debated the merits of constructing a new bridge, though some question whether the estimated cost is realistic.
"What kind of bridge can you build for $80,000?" Republican Selectman Jerry Nielsen asked at Monday night's meeting.