NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A rotating bridge along the Metro-North Railroad will have limited openings to Norwalk River traffic so train service won't be disrupted while bridge repairs are made to fix problems that twice snarled traffic for thousands of commuters, the Coast Guard said Thursday.
In a notice to boaters, the Coast Guard said the Connecticut Department of Transportation has contracted engineers to make emergency repairs to Walk Bridge as soon as possible. The repairs are expected to take several weeks.
"These emergency repairs can only be accomplished with an extended closing of the bridge and unless these repairs are made, the bridge will remain inoperable," the notice states.
Coast Guard spokesman Russell Tippets said the bridge will be lifted on a case-by-case basis to allow boats to pass.
"It's going to be very limited openings," Tippets said. "We're asking people to really plan ahead for their trips."
Tippets said the bridge will be open to boaters this Sunday.
The Walk Bridge, in southwestern Connecticut, accommodates a train route that serves commuters to major cities in the region, including New York. The bridge was stuck in the open position last Friday and in April. It has generally been kept in the closed position since then to ensure train service is not affected.
Tom Devine, who owns a business that moves heating oil and other products on the river, said it's important to fix the bridge for the short term so commerce can continue.
"The cost to Devine Bros per year if this situation were not rectified is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars," Devine said in a statement. "Not having a short term plan of action that would allow interstate, waterborne supplies to our terminal should not be allowed because it interrupts interstate, waterborne commerce."
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the bridge should be kept in the closed position to allow unimpeded rail traffic while bridge repairs are made. The Connecticut Democrat said he would continue to seek federal aid to replace the bridge.
"We cannot risk stranding thousands of commuters and severely impeding commerce in the tri-state region," Blumenthal said. "These repairs are the result of decades of decay, deferred maintenance and neglect, and are vital to assure unimpeded rail service.
"While it is unfortunate that boating traffic may be curtailed, the repair of the bridge and the needs of thousands of commuters along the nation's busiest railroad must take precedence," he said.
Judd Everhart, a spokesman for the state Transportation Department, said the agency has applied for $349 million in Superstorm Sandy relief funds and the money, if approved, would be combined with $116 million in state funds to build a new bridge.