The Walk Bridge in Norwalk, May 2014. Credit: Leslie Yager
UPDATE 9:00pm: After the crisis summit meeting with Connecticut elected officials and leadership from the MTA and Metro-north on Monday, Gov. Malloy along with MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast and Metro-North President Joe Giulietti delivered statements and took questions from reporters.
The Walk bridge, a swing bridge, was built in 1896 and rehabbed in 1992.
“This means that all four tracks go out of service when it swings around and has to swing back,” said Metro North President Giulietti. “The problem we’ve been having is that it requires 5-6 openings a week to deal with the river traffic and requires a lot of work to be maintained.”
Giulietti said,” The bridge was designed, for example, with old steam technology and a steam motor that was supposed to go and open these miter rails. That has been converted to electric motors but it’s still the same type of operation with all the gear wheels that have to go into place in order for this bridge to drop in.”
“There has been a tremendous amount of dedicated effort by the employees of Metro North to keep this bridge going and it has turned into a major labor-intensive operation to keep it going,” Giulietti said, explaining that it was originally designed so that a couple of people would be able to operate it and open it up. He said that due to the problem with the miter rails, the current situation requires 30-40 people to people to jack up the miter rails.
“We know and apologize for the inconvenience it caused,” Giulietti said.
Malloy said the bridge has been a priority of his administration. “We’re spending money on it and the decision was made that it needs to be replaced. That decision was made in 2008 but it was dropped because they didn’t know how to pay for it,” he said.
“Nobody can hold their head high. This should have been done a long long time ago. And certainly should never have been dropped in 2008. That’s why when I came into office and had a new commissioner and started spending money in a meaningful way since the 1990s.” – Gov. Dannel Malloy
“We have to find over $100 million to put into this project ourselves,” Malloy said.”And that’s part of our application.”
Then, responding to a reporter’s question about CT Senator Blumenthal’s suggestion the Coast Guard limit the openings of the bridge, Malloy said, “If this bridge was locked down you could run on it for a very long time. But it can’t be locked down.”
Malloy said there had been discussions earlier in the day with regard to limiting openings of the bridge and that Senator Blumenthal, Congressmen Himes and Murphy participated in the discussions.
“And those lifts have to be limited to as few as possible. The bridge is lifted, because… there is some movement of sailboats …a charter boat, but the main reason is delivery of building materials to a yard that is in that location,” Malloy explained.
Original Story, Monday, June 9, 12:00p.m.: Governor Malloy will hold a “crisis summit” at 1:00 pm on Monday with the State of Connecticut, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metro-North to address the recent incidents that caused the failure of the New Haven Line’s “WALK Bridge” in Norwalk.
“This is now the second major failure in two weeks, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and causing unacceptable delays. Let me be clear, this is outrageous,” Malloy said in a statement. “My administration has stressed that every procedure, protocol and engineering solution must get the immediate attention of the most qualified team of experts. It is of the utmost importance that these operating, maintenance, alternative service and customer protocols be completely critiqued and that near term solutions be found to ensure reliable service for Connecticut commuters.”
“It should be noted that these most recent failures punctuate the absolute necessity for replacing this 118 year old bridge – a central link to the entire Northeast Corridor. We simply cannot afford peak service disruptions like this, which is why we have requested and are aggressively pursuing federal Resiliency funding for this exact purpose,” Malloy continued.
The meeting is scheduled for Monday at 1:00pm at Metro North’s Madison Ave offices in New York.
In April, Governor Malloy announced that the State of Connecticut applied for $600 million in federal transportation funding
to help cover the capital costs of three resiliency, or “hardening” projects central to Connecticut’s commuter rail infrastructure along the New Haven Line. Specifically, the state requested $349 million in federal funding to cover 75 percent of the cost of the WALK Bridge Replacement Project. Built in 1896, the WALK Bridge will be replaced it with a more resilient “bascule” bridge (which would open for marine traffic from one side with a counterweight system) will significantly enhance the safety and reliability of commuter and intercity passenger service along the Northeast corridor.