NORWALK, Conn. -- The rotating Walk Bridge in Norwalk will be open to river traffic on a limited basis Saturday after being shut down by the U.S. Coast Guard to perform repairs.
The 118-year-old rotating bridge over the Norwalk River has malfunctioned twice in recent weeks, causing significant delays for Metro-North trains that travel over the bridge. The bridge normally swings open five or six times a week to allow marine traffic to pass through, but the Coast Guard sent out a notice Thursday that it would be closing the bridge until further notice to allow Connecticut Department of Transportation workers to perform repairs on the bridge.
There will be a scheduled opening Saturday at 9 a.m. to allow a flotilla of seven boats to pass through, said Marjorie Anders, Metro-North spokeswoman. Metro-North personnel will manually open the bridge to allows boats to pass, an operation that will take 40 to 50 people, Anders said.
"There are no details on when short-term repairs are expected to begin and how long they will take or cost," Anders said. Metro-North and DOT officials met with consultants Thursday in New Haven to discuss the bridge, and are planning a site visit Monday, June 16, to get consultants up to speed.
Earlier this week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that the state and MTA are seeking federal funds to replace the bridge. The project would require about $349 million in federal grant money from funds set aside for recovery from Hurricane Sandy, as well as about $150 million in state money.
"It's a necessary but inconvenient step to take, especially for the two businesses that rely on the bridge being open to allow maritime traffic," said state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk-Darien). "We cannot risk shutting down Amtrak travel along the northeast corridor and inconveniencing the thousands of people who travel on the Metro-North rail."
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District) said in a statement that he spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx this week and urged him to expedite funding to replace the bridge.
The state would be able to put up the additional $150 million that would be necessary with the federal money, Duff said. If federal grants could not be secured and the state had to pay for the project on its own, that the bridge would still be replaced but it would take longer, he said. Members of the state legislature are working with their federal colleagues to secure federal funding, he said.
"With the exception of safety, there's no greater priority than reliable train service. It's going to get replaced," Duff said.