The two entities will develop short- and long-term strategies to address the 118-year-old spans infrastructure needs in order to minimize the risk for failure in the future. Teams from both the MTA and state will participate, with the goal of delivering their findings by mid-July.
The bridge, which crosses the Norwalk River, swings open by rotating about a central pivot to allow marine traffic to pass. Connecticut owns the bridge, but Metro-North is under contract with the state to maintain the bridge, as well as swing the bridge open and close as required by marine traffic.
"There is no doubt that we are now seeing the effects of decades of neglect when it comes to investing in our infrastructure," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy. "Over the past three and a half years, we have changed course. In fact, the five-year capital plan is 165 percent of the 2010 plan. The Walk Bridge is a great example of past priorities. In 2008, plans for a new bridge were dropped and no additional investment was made. Today, we are not only providing the funding to maintain it, we're also developing a plan to replace it. While we clearly have much more work to do, I hope that residents know my administration is committed to making investments that were put off for far too long."
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast expressed his organization's support for the state's grant application for federal transportation funding for three commuter rail infrastructure projects on the New Haven Line, including $349 million in federal funding to replace the Walk Bridge.
"Every time this 118-year-old bridge fails to close properly, our customers suffer the consequences of decades of delay and neglect," said Prendergast. "We are working closely with our partners in Connecticut to support their efforts to make temporary repairs to keep this bridge operating while they pursue federal funding to replace it with a modern bridge."
Besides calling for an operational review, Gov. Malloy also vowed to make additional resources available for temporary bridge repairs so it can remain operational in the short-term until funding for a replacement bridge can be secured.
"In the short term, every procedure, protocol and engineering solution must get the immediate attention of the most qualified team of experts to ensure reliable service for Connecticut commuters," he said. "But the long term aim is to find and fund a replacement and I'm glad today to have the public support from the MTA on our application for federal funding."
Built in 1896, plans call for the Walk Bridge to be replaced with a vertical lift bridge that opens for marine traffic from one side with a counterweight system and will significantly enhance the safety and reliability of commuter and intercity passenger service along the Northeast corridor.
"Second only to safety, customer service and reliability are our top focus as we work to provide and improve daily train service," said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti. "We have heard the frustrations of our Connecticut customers and the state's highest elected leaders. Today, we pledge to work together cooperatively to minimize any disruptions that may come from our operations of this bridge."