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Can the Farm River Bridge Be Saved?

The historic East Haven structure, which has been in place since the 1800s, has been targeted for removal as part of the state's proposed Route 1/Route 100 intersection realignment.

With pressure mounting from throughout the community to preserve the , the practical question remains: Can the ailing Farm River Bridge actually, physically, be saved?

While the final and definitive answer to that question currently remains unknown, state Department of Transportation engineers have once again to find out — and this time in writing.

"The Department acknowledges the concerns raised by the town, the town's historical society, and town residents, regarding the historical significance of Bridge No' 01665," Timothy Wilson, a state DOT official, wrote in his May 25 response to an earlier letter from .  "As a result, the Department stated at the beginning of the formal public informational meeting presentation that the Department would explore the feasibility of bridge rehabilitation in lieu of replacement with a new structure."

Both mayor and the state's letters are posted in the gallery that accompanies this article.

In a written statement, Maturo said he was "appreciative" of the DOT's response to the concern of East Haven residents.

"I am hopeful that as they explore alternatives to a complete replacement of that very historical and sentimental structure, they will be able to retain the characteristics of the bridge while at the same time making important improvements to that complex intersection," Maturo stated.

'Structurally Deficient'

As first reported by East Haven Patch, the state has of the Route 100 (Main Street) and Route 1 (Saltonstall Parkway) intersection due to safety and traffic flow concerns there.

Part of the current plan includes permanent removal and replacement of the bridge — which sits next to the historic Old Iron Mill, the site of the first iron works in Connecticut and third in the nation — stretches across the river along Route 100 just before the intersection's approach.

The structure — erected in 1876 to replace the original wooden bridge built there in 1644 — has been identified as being in "poor condition." The National Bridge Inventory Database also has the bridge listed as currently "structurally deficient."

Because of this, the bridge is now on an heightened 12-month special inspection schedule. And DOT officials were uncertain of the physical and financial feasibility of repairing the structure.

Save the Bridge

East Haven residents, however, have made it clear they want the bridge to stay.

During a about the project late last month, several residents — including many members of the — voiced their displeasure at the state's plans to permanently tear down the bridge.

Also, Arthur Desorbo, economic development coordinator, read aloud a letter from Mayor Joseph Maturo requesting the state reconsider their plan.

In response, DOT officials they would consider the possibility of rehabilitating the bridge.

'Bridge Brigade'

Recent efforts by a group of students, ," have kept the pressure on and helped to raise additional awareness and media attention regarding the importance of the Farm River Bridge and its role in East Haven's history.

The brigade met with state officials Wednesday at the elementary school, during which time they shared their concerns, asked questions and handed over a petition with 190 signatures, according to a New Haven Register report.

The DOT project engineers reportedly told the students while they could not guarantee the bridge could be saved, they would do their best to explore the feasibility of rehabilitating it.

Additional Information

Copies of the state's study and reports on the bridge's current condition are now available for public review at the .

Reference Librarian Fawn Gillespie reported in a that the reports — Phase: Archaeological Investigation; Hydraulic Analysis Report; Historic Bridge Survey Form/Historic Mapping and Photographics and Rehabilitation Study — can be accessed at the library’s circulation desk.

In addition, anyone wishing to discuss the project may contact Timothy M. Wilson at (860)-594-3189 or by email at timothy.wilson@ct.gov.

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