NORWALK, CT – Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) joined Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling today to announce the recently awarded $161 million federal grant that will go towards the final plan to replace the New Haven Line’s 118-year-old Walk Bridge in Norwalk. They were joined by Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and commuter advocate Jim Cameron.
“This historic federal investment is a major victory for both Norwalk and our entire region,” said U.S. Representative Jim Himes (CT-4). “This award will help replace the deteriorated Walk Bridge, which has caused repetitive delays that have been a drain on both commuters and businesses in Connecticut and the Northeast, and improve the efficiency and safety of Metro-North's New Haven line. I fought hard for this funding and will continue pushing for investments to fix our crumbling bridges, roads and railways to ensure the safety of our people and make our economy more competitive.”
“The operational failures of the Walk Bridge underscored how critically important it is to upgrade and bring our aging transportation infrastructure into the 21st Century - something my administration has been addressing over the last several years with smart, strategic investments in our mass transit and highway systems,” said Governor Malloy. “Since the malfunctions we saw last summer, we have carried out the repairs and procedures necessary to minimize the risk for failure in the short-term and have aggressively pursued the funding necessary to implement a realistic finance plan that will bring us all the way from design to a full replacement as soon as possible.”
The federal government recently awarded ConnDOT $161 million for infrastructure hardening purposes which, combined with existing state funds designated for the Walk Bridge replacement, gives Connecticut about $277 million to put toward the $465 million total estimated project cost. In all, this project will be funded with 34 percent state funds and 66 percent federal funds. The additional funding sources that will provide the $188 million needed for the project are:
Federal Transit Administration regular program apportionment funding is programed to support the project in federal fiscal years 2016-2018 in the amount of approximately $146 million with a state matching requirement of $36.5 million over the three years for a total of $182.5 million.
An additional $68 million of state bond funds over the three year period are programmed as state over match to complete the WALK Finance Plan and provide a total of approximately $465 million for the project.
“The Walk Bridge has been stuck in the 19th century for far too long, and today's announcement will finally bring a permanent, 21st century solution,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “For decades, the Walk Bridge was allowed to decay and deteriorate, as both the state and federal government kicked the can down the road and ignored glaring warning signs. Here, and with other major transportation investments, Governor Malloy is to be commended for recognizing that we must invest now in our rail and transportation infrastructure, or pay later with cascading failures, intolerable traffic congestion, and diminished opportunities for economic development.”
“The Walk Bridge’s failure to open not once, but twice this year, served as a wake-up call for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut commuters that we simply can’t afford to let our roads and bridges crumble around us,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. “Replacing this 118-year-old bridge is long overdue and Governor Malloy should be applauded for his leadership today. This funding will go a long way toward making commuters safer and happier, and I look forward to doing whatever I can to help this move forward.”
Commuter advocate Jim Cameron hailed the Governor’s announcement but cautioned, “After decades of neglect it will take many years to design and build a new Walk bridge, just the first of four such century-old bridges needing replacement. I would caution commuters that we are still at some risk of service disruptions, despite the best efforts of the CDOT and Metro-North. Only patience and perseverance will return this railroad to greatness.”
Governor Malloy also outlined the state’s aggressive schedule for the project which is using an “alternative delivery” process, specifically the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC) process. ConnDOT will issue a request for qualifications (RFQ) this month to start contractor selection and expects the design for the replacement bridge, which began in July, to be complete by 2016. With a contract bid package complete by late 2016, construction of the replacement bridge could begin in 2017 with a completion date in 2020. The combination of the additional funding and the alternative project delivery method will result in getting this project done many years ahead of the original schedule for the project.
“The Walk Bridge is a critical bridge essential to commuter services on the New Haven Line and to intercity services provided by AMTRAK between Washington and Boston,” said ConnDOT Commissioner James Redeker. “The funding form the Federal Transit Administration demonstrates the role of federal funding to address this and other major infrastructure needs along the Northeast Corridor.”
In April, Governor Malloy announced that the State of Connecticut applied for a portion of $3 billion in federal funding made available under the Sandy Resiliency Project Program for states most affected by Storm Sandy. Connecticut applied for funding to help cover the capital costs of three resiliency, or “infrastructure hardening”, projects central to the New Haven Line, including the replacement of the Walk Bridge. After competing with several East Coast states for the limited federal funding, last month, ConnDOT was awarded two of the federal Sandy grants in the amount of $161 million for the Walk Bridge replacement project and $9 million to upgrade the power system at the New Haven Rail Yard, where Connecticut’s rail car fleet is maintained.
Under contract to the State of Connecticut, Metro-North maintains the Walk Bridge and opens and closes it as required by the needs of marine traffic. Built in 1896, the Walk Bridge is the oldest movable bridge along the New Haven Line/Northeast Corridor in Connecticut. The bridge will be replaced with a more resilient “bascule” or vertical lift bridge that opens for marine traffic from one side with a counterweight system and will significantly enhance the safety and reliability of commuter and intercity passenger service along the Northeast corridor.