These six giant girders will be the main structure of the new I-94 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue. / Photos by Thane Grauel
These giant girders will be the main structure of the new I-95 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue. / Photos by Thane Grauel

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — After months of chipping away at rock and pouring new abutments under the Interstate 95 bridge over Saugatuck Avenue, the pieces for new spans are being positioned for construction.

Upright supports just south of the span have been put into place recently, signaling a new phase of the project.

These upright structures will be used to support the old bridge as it's taken out of place.
These upright structures will be used to build a future span, starting with the huge girders.

The existing bridge might not look like it, but is actually two spans. The replacement spans will be built atop the vertical supports on both sides of the existing structure, and slid into place over two weekends, according to the state Department of Transportation.

That’ll be in October, Michael Rosenblatt, the DOT’s project engineer for the I-95 Norwalk Westport Project, told the Westport Journal. When exactly should be known soon.

This “slide-in” method is a part of method known as Advanced Bridge Construction. Watch a video of a similar DOT project in Southington here.

An earlier, similar bridge replacement in Southington on YouTube.
An earlier, similar bridge replacement in Southington on YouTube.

The project area extends from Norwalk to the Saugatuck River Bridge in Westport. (Recent traffic tie-ups because of center-lane repaving in Westport are actually a part of a different maintenance project.)

The bridges over Franklin Street and the Saugatuck River will also have significant repairs, though far short of replacement.

“That’s the temporary support system that holds the new bridge that we’re going to be building, adjacent to the existing,” Rosenblatt said of the metal columns being put in place.

Some of the huge, green steel girders are already on site, in the median on the other side of the bridge. A large pile of chipped rubble sits there, too. Other bridge parts will arrive soon.

“The Slide” coming in October

“We’re on schedule for the slide,” Rosenblatt said. “It’ll be this October. We haven’t nailed down the exact dates yet. We’ll probably have a better idea by about Labor Day.”

When it happens, all I-95 traffic, reduced to two lanes in each direction, will be carried by what is now the southbound span, while the northbound span is demolished and its replacement hoisted up and rolled into its place. After some paving to level everything off, Rosenblatt said, the northbound span will reopen.

After that’s complete, traffic will be shifted to the northbound span, and the southbound span demolished and replaced.

In the coming weeks, the new spans will be assembled over Saugatuck Avenue, with traffic passing beneath.

A rubble pile from months of rock chipping at the base of the new bridge.
A rubble pile from months of chipping for the new bridge.

“On top of those steel columns we’re going to place the new steel girders and forms and pour the concrete deck for the bridge,” Rosenblatt said. “And that’s what gets slid into place.”

“The actual assembly of the bridge will be over the next 60 days,” he said.

The weekend lane closures, detours and Saugatuck Avenue closures will be from 8 p.m. Friday night to 6 a.m. Monday morning, he said. If work is done sooner, everything will open sooner.

Other parts of the project include:

• Reconstruction of the center median and right shoulders, along with resurfacing of the highway mainline and ramps at Interchanges 16 and 17.

• Reconstruction of median consistent with other stretches of I-95, to provide a 6-foot-wide capped concrete barrier section.

• Widening of left and right shoulders where possible.

• Improving drainage by replacing and rerouting drainage structures.

• Replacing existing highway illumination system.

• Installation of realigned traffic Incident Management System.

• Installation of new guide rails.

• Utilization of wet retroreflective pavement markings to provide increased visibility in wet conditions.

Traffic impacts in coming days

The DOT warns motorists that some closures and detours will be coming between Wednesday and Sept. 15, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Exit 17 southbound off-ramp: Traffic will be detoured to Exit 18 off ramp to Sherwood Island Connector and then to Route 1 and Riverside Avenue.

Exit 17 northbound on-ramp: Traffic will be detoured via Riverside Avenue to Route 1 to the Sherwood Island Connector to Exit 18 on-ramp.

Thane Grauel grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond for 35 years. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.