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2005_08-04    NEWTOWN BEE

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Funds Approved For Housatonic Bridge

By Andrew Gorosko

The bridge over the Stevenson Dam will be closed to traffic from 9 pm on Friday, August 12, through Friday, August 26, to allow for needed repairs. The use of the dam as a bridge will end once the state constructs a new bridge just up river from the dam. The State Bonding Commission approved funding for the new bridge on July 29.

Funds Approved For Housatonic Bridge

STEVENSON - The State Bond Commission has approved funding for the state Department of Transportation's (DOT) project to build a new bridge to carry Route 34 across the Housatonic River, linking the Stevenson section of Monroe to Oxford.

The commission approved funding for the bridge project, among other state highway projects, on July 29.

The $34,185,000 bridge replacement project includes $27,348,000 in federal funds, plus $6,837,000 in state funds, according to State Rep DebraLee Hovey.

The DOT plans to construct a new bridge across the Housatonic River to replace the antiquated, deteriorating bridge atop the hydroelectric Stevenson Dam, but the new span will not be in service until about 2010. Plans for the new bridge are under review by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

To allow some major bridge repairs to be made, the existing bridge atop the dam will be completely closed to traffic from August 12 through 26.

The new bridge would be constructed about 250 feet upriver of the existing bridge atop Stevenson Dam. The Housatonic River at Lake Zoar would remain at its current level during the bridge construction project. The new bridge will be designed to last 80 years.

Construction of the new bridge is projected to start in the spring of 2007. The bridge project has been in the planning stages for more than a decade.

"The existing bridge, which is located on a dam, is in a severely deteriorated condition and needs to be replaced to ensure the safety of the thousands of Monroe residents who use Route 34 on a regular basis," Rep Hovey said in a statement.

A complicating aspect of constructing the new bridge involves the need to minimize disturbance to the Housatonic riverbed to limit the dispersal of toxic PCBs, which lie in river sediments. Also, the project will seek to avoid disturbing local bald eagle wintertime habitat.

To allow major bridge repairs to be made, the DOT will completely close to traffic the Route 34 two-lane bridge atop Stevenson Dam from 9 pm on Friday, August 12, through Friday, August 26.

The bridge closure will allow workers to make the types of major bridge repairs that they have been unable to accomplish during a bridge renovation project, which has been underway since June.

The bridge's closure will result in lengthy detours, considering the few locations where bridges cross the Housatonic River.

During the bridge closure, Route 34 motorists will be directed to use Route 110 and Route 111 as detour routes.

In those detours, motorists traveling eastward on Route 34 from Newtown toward New Haven would leave Route 34 in Monroe, travel along Route 111 to Route 110, follow Route 110 to downtown Shelton and then proceed back onto Route 34 in Derby. Westbound motorists on Route 34 would follow the opposite route.

The decision to close the bridge for two continuous weeks was based on comments made by public officials, business owners, and area residents at a recent public information meeting.

Electronic signs are posted in the vicinity of the bridge providing advance notice of the bridge's August 12 closing date.

Electronic signs will be positioned on Interstate 84 in Newtown and on Route 34 in Ansonia/Derby on August 12 to inform motorists of the bridge's closure and the need to seek alternate routes.

During current bridge repair work, the bridge occasionally carries alternating one-way traffic, as needed, to allow construction to proceed. Such alternating one-way traffic occurs on weekdays between 9 am and 3 pm. Bridge repairs are expected to be completed sometime in September.

Northeast Generation Company, the firm that owns the bridge, is conducting the $2 million repair project.

Stevenson Dam was completed in 1919. The 1,250-foot-long concrete dam, which is 124 feet tall, creates the 11-mile-long impoundment upriver of the dam known as Lake Zoar, which is heavily used for recreation.

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