January 18, 2022

Essex Selectmen Plan Quick Action for the Walnut Street Bridge

ESSEX— The board of selectmen decided last week to work for an expedited replacement of the Walnut Street bridge in the Ivoryton section, with the bridge replacement to proceed separately from a planned 2014 bond issue that would fund several major town capital improvement projects.

The board agreed to work for separate and quicker action on the bridge replacement after First Selectman Norman Needleman reported that a recent inspection by state Department of Transportation engineers had detected new and more serious problems with the bridge. The inspection has led to imposition of a 10–ton weight limit for the bridge that will require detours for some heavier vehicles. “That bridge needs to be done now,” Needleman said.

The bridge was constructed in 1983 with Federal Emergency Management Agency funding after the June 1982 Ivoryton Flood destroyed the previous bridge that carried Walnut Street over the Falls River. It was intended to be a temporary bridge, with a life-span of five to ten years, but has now been in use for 30 years. The project is expected to be eligible for up to 80 percent state/federal funding cost reimbursement under the Local Bridge Program.

Selectmen had originally planned to include the Walnut Street bridge on the list of capital projects, including replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof, that would be presented as part of a proposed bonding authorization for capital projects. But the proposed bond authorization is not expected to go to the voters for approval until early summer of 2014, with the board deciding to pursue the Walnut Street bridge project under a separate, and hopefully faster, timetable.

In other business, the selectmen agreed to return to it’s previous meeting schedule for 2014, with meetings to be held twice each month on the first Wednesday at 5 p.m., and the third Wednesday at 7 p.m. The board had experimented with a one meeting per month schedule beginning over the summer, but later decided that two meetings per month are needed.