While two pieces of the Walk Bridge construction project are almost done, the overall project is running a bit behind schedule, according to Vanessa Valadares, principal engineer for Norwalk who serves as a liaison between the project and the city. Valadares, who gave the update to the Common Council’s Public Works Committee, said that this was the most up-to-date information that she had, but noted that things do change often with this project.
The Walk Bridge construction project encompasses more than $1 billion in spending to replace the Walk Bridge, an interlocking MetroNorth train bridge that crosses the Norwalk River, as well as bridge replacements along the New Haven line, updates to the Danbury Branch, and utility updates.
So far, the Ann Street bridge replacement has been completed. The Danbury Branch dockyard project, which is located behind the SoNo Collection mall, is just about done. That project electrified the tracks in that area, which will allow for trains to pull off and maneuver, in case they need to switch direction.
The CP243 Interlocking project, which allows the trains to shift from one track to another, is also nearly complete. That project took place along the New Haven line, particularly around the East Norwalk train station. This piece needed to be completed in advance of the actual construction of the Walk Bridge, because that work will reduce the number of tracks from 2 to 1.
Work on a separate, but related project—the East Avenue roadway improvement—is also currently underway.
Valadares said that the widening of East Avenue has been on the city’s list for more than 20 years, and the city has paid for the design, while the state is paying for construction work.
When the state “started looking at the whole Walk Bridge” construction project, Valadares said that they asked the state to incorporate the East Avenue work with this. The East Avenue bridge, along with Fort Point and Osborne bridges, need to be redone to assist with the new elevation of the Walk Bridge.
As the bridges get replaced, the utility wires along them are also going underground.
“The city saw a great opportunity to improve East Avenue and underground utilities,” she said.
The work in that area will also allow for longer platforms at the East Norwalk train station, so all train doors can open there. Valadares called this “a big win for the city.”
However, despite that progress, other parts of the project have been pushed back. To keep the project moving forward, Valadares said that they’ve moved some pieces around to stay as close to the schedule as possible—such as moving up some of the East Avenue work.
“That was supposed to be the last thing to happen, but now to get things moving, they’re going to start widening the road,” she said.
The current schedule, which Valadares stressed can change at any time, has some early work on the actual Walk Bridge itself taking place in 2023. In 2024, the local roadway bridges will begin to be upgraded and replaced and the lift tower piers on the Walk Bridge will be constructed. The lift tower structure of the Walk Bridge and abutments and span work will begin in 2025 and work will continue through 2028, with a plan to finish all of the work by 2029.
Valadares noted some of the project’s benefits including the East Avenue pedestrian and traffic safety improvements; updates to the East Norwalk train station; and improvements that allow most boats traveling the river to clear the bridge. Valadares also noted that the state built a new $40 million 4D theater and seal exhibit at the Maritime Aquarium since the current iMax theater had to be demolished due to construction.
Valadares encouraged residents to stay up-to-date with the latest information on the Walk Bridge website, which often includes the latest closures and construction activity.