Sikorsky Bridge Rebuilt, Sorta

Having just spent one hour and forty-eight minutes in a commute that was slowed due to one-eighth of an inch of snow in only certain parts of the highway, I thought that some former CT people might be amused (or amazed) to hear that the new Sikorsky Memorial Bridge has been opened on the Merritt Parkway and it’s no longer using metal plates for a driving surface.

Actually, I wouldn’t have even known about it if it wasn’t for the commercials that the Connecticut DOT had been playing over a number of radio stations – I’ve been taking other roads to work lately. To those of you that have never seen this bridge before, it’s actually a marvel of highway transportation. You see the Merritt Parkway was originally designed to be a little used road – for casual driving no less – from Stratford to Stamford. When the DOT of the 1940’s realized that they could connect the Merritt to the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford, they decided to do so, and the first Sikorsky Bridge was built. Since this was at the high of the post-WWII cold war paranoia, the designers were afraid that if the Sikorsky plant – which sits under the bridge – was attacked that CT supply lines would be cut from the rest of New England, so they opted for a modular design: metal grids that were interconnected across the river that would allow for “easy” replacement after an attack. Or at least easier than a normal concrete bridge would have been.

Great as an idea, sure, but bollocks for travel. Simply put this bridge was a nightmare in the snow, sleet, and rain. My cousin once did 360’s across the length of the bridge during one 1970’s snow storm; when he came to a stop on the otherside, a cop told him that they had just closed the bridge for the night. We live in New England – we get snow (although drivers today forgot this) – this is an impractical bridge here. OK. Next the DOT opted to add some “traction stuff” to the bridge in the 80’s when they refurbished it. Since the “stuff” was never applied correctly – a rural rumour out here is that they installed the new grids upside down – and the grids are misaligned, this bridge became a slippery nightmare in all weather. On a dry and sunny day, I’ve been pulled and pushed into the only other lane because of this “helping” agent. It was so bad that people from all over the northeast have heard about it… it sort of leaves an impression.

Take three: the new bridge that just opened. It’s a real bridge this time, seeing as an attack on Sikorsky would take out the neighboring towns much less the highway. The truth is that it’s not that big of a target anymore, seeing as military production is more spread out these days. Right now 1/2 of the bridge is complete and that consists of four lanes on its own; the finished bridge – some time in 2005 – will be six or eight lanes in total so it should really help traffic. It’s an all around good thing for CT, seeing as our state government usually points to mass transit whenever there’s a traffic or road problem. This is a nice change for drivers in the state.

What is sort of amusing is the commercial that the DOT made. They announce the completion of the 1/2 bridge and almost make you want to purposely check it out, seeing how bad the old bridge was. Of course they can’t seem to leave well enough alone: they go on to say that “the new bridge is complete and should help the flow of traffic and help prevent slow downs. Please slow down while approaching the bridge as we change the traffic pattern”.

Guess the glass is only half full for this one, after all.

3 thoughts on “Sikorsky Bridge Rebuilt, Sorta”

  1. About freakin’ time! That thing was a nightmare!

    I never knew the modular replacement grid thing. Interesting.

    What I did hear is that when they replaced the grids in the 80’s, it was originally smooth and they found that people would drive across it way too fast – making the bad situation even worse. The traction things were added as an afterthought. They actually had some guys arc-weld little bolbs all over the surface to increase traction and make people slow down because it was so rough and uneven.

    I’m amazed that the new bridge got completed so quickly – the last time I drove over that way was 2 years ago and I can’t recall seeing anything going on. Considering the 10 years it took them to rebuild the storm drains and Sikorsky exit ramps this is pretty amazing.

    Why eight lanes? The parkway is only two each way, unless they will be adding lanes for the Milford connector (with it’s HUGE 1-mile loop).

  2. It is great that the new bridge is up. Now the problem is it is such tight driving going South that people slow down.

    Also I heard that the bridge was built so that a Aircraft carrier could come up the river and pick up aircraft. The roadway would be lifted off and the carrier would go through.

    Who knows I also heard the steel grating was put on upside down to give it the grooves.

  3. @Kevin – Yeah, I read about it in one of those “historical” books that we got for my grandfather a few years ago… classic case of engineers having too much power. Of course engineers would also be quick to point out that it’s the people driving that are the problem, making the whole bridge a case of User Error.

    But anyway. Yeah, I figure it will be 6 lanes + 2 massive shoulders – northbound having an i-95 exit only and southbound having a long merge lane. They added an extra exit only lane to i-95 southbound for Exit 27A and it actually helps to easy traffic at night – of course exits 25-27 are bogged with construction, but so be it :)

    @Dave – that explains the “it will speed traffic – slow down!” message they had on the radio. Interesting about the aircraft carrier – that could very well be the case with the plant right there but god knows it aint going past the plant – the river isn’t THAT deep. But yeah, the upside down one is another thing I’ve heard too but I think that was the rumour – they DID do something that made it go from bad to worse after it was “done”… that was the extra balls I think. Either way, it’s all good! :D

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