September 23, 2019

Op-Ed: Let’s Do Something About Essex’s Tacky “Front Door”

Cause for concern:  the bridge carrying Rte. 9 at exit 3 is Essex's "Front Door"

Cause for concern: the bridge carrying Rte. 9 at exit 3 is Essex’s “Front Door”

Look at the “front door” to Essex, Conn.:  Tacky, patch-painted bridges and untamed brush.  Hardly welcoming enticements for visitors, and in sharp contrast to the beautiful center road “gardens” maintained by our beloved, hard working,  Ancient Order of Weeders.

There are two issues here: (1) refurbishment of the bridges themselves and (2) upkeep of the land around the bridges.

(1)   Expense for upkeep of these bridges and surroundings belongs to the Conn. Dept. of Transportation (DOT).  Conversations with the DOT regarding Essex’s tackiness
result in this:  due to budget constraints, repainting these  bridges (lead paint is huge issue) will only happen when the bridge needs major structural rehab.  However, were there grafitti all over the  bridges, the DOT could indeed get out and cover it.  Which is to say, the DOT could make the bridges look good without the necessity of the total overhaul.  But will not.  The solution is simple!  All I need to do is to get out with long-armed spray paint cans (would you join me?) and spell out something gross.  Just kidding.

Underneath the Rte. 9 bridge -- not a pretty picture.

Underneath the Rte. 9 bridge — not a pretty picture.

I challenge the so-called “budget constraints.”  While the DOT has no funds to fix the ugly Essex bridges, it does indeed have budget to mow down, — remove — all greenery in a large divider section on Rte. 9 at Exit 2.  You’ve surely noticed it.   Inquiries with State Rep. Phil Miller indicate the reason for the mowing was that there were invasive trees in that area.  So when or why does the DOT study and determine the quality of greenery on public lands?  Connecticut has a Forestry Dept. within the Department of Environmental Protection that studies and has funds to control such problems. The DOT has funds for invasive tree eradication, but not for tidying up ugly bridges.

A view of the Old Saybrook exit.

A view of the Old Saybrook exit.

As you can see, there is something awry here.  But, as it appears hopeless that such wasteful duplications in our State Government will be fixed soon, if ever, it seems that the only way Essex can get its ‘Front Door’ at Exit 3 spruced up, is by a special allowance to the DOT from State funds specific for “Bridge Beautification.”  I submit that as there are State Small Town Economic Assistance Program ( STEAP) funds granted for upgrades to replace crosswalks, tennis courts and parking lots, there surely are funds available to relieve Essex of its “Tacky Town” appearance.

I-95's Exit 70 offers a beautiful gateway to Old Lyme.

I-95’s Exit 70 offers a beautiful gateway to Old Lyme.

(2)   In contrast to Essex’s bridges and surrounding areas, look at the expansive, elegant and well-mowed plantings at I-95,  Exit 70, Old Lyme.  I hereby ask of the DOT to give Essex equal treatment.  And I hereby request Essex’s First Selectman Norm Needleman to request a State grant to the DOT to speed along this project.  In addition,  I hereby request our state representatives … Phil Miller and Art Linares … to assist in pushing these projects through.

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