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Niantic bridge replacement will take 3 years

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Amtrak told local and state officials that replacing the Niantic River bridge in Connecticut will take three years and work on the much smaller Miamicock Bridge would begin Dec. 17, The Day reports.

Amtrak held a meeting of
its Moveable Bridge Advisory Board at the state Department of Environmental
Protection Marine Headquarters in Old Lyme, Conn., to talk about how it is
planning to minimize the impact of the projects on neighbors, rail passengers
and commercial fishermen – a message that was met with skepticism by some.

The DEP approved Amtrak’s
application for the Niantic River Bridge in September. Next, Amtrak needs
approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which has already submitted a draft
permit. The Coast Guard is last to issue the final permit.

Amtrak officials said they
expect to award the contract for the replacement of the 102-year-old Niantic
River bridge in the next few weeks. Construction could begin in late February
and would last until March 2013. The railroad company wants to replace the
existing moveable-span railroad bridge over the Niantic River and the existing
boardwalk and protect the beach by installing a stone terminal groin, which
serves as a breakwater.

Last spring, Vice President
Joe Biden announced that $105 million in federal stimulus funding would be used
to replace the bridge with a three-span, 142-foot-long bascule-lift bridge
about 58 feet south of the existing span. The 45-foot navigational channel will
be expanded to 100 feet wide. The plans include a new 2,200-foot retaining wall
adjacent to the existing bridge.

People with businesses on
the Niantic River stressed to Amtrak representatives that they are nervous
about the condition of the current bridge and questioned whether the bridge
could last three years. Last month, the bridge was stuck for a week in the down
position when a chain broke and caused what Amtrak officials called a "catastrophic
event." The incident created big problems for boats and charter fishermen.

An Amtrak representative
said the bridge’s mechanical problems were fixed recently, but because of its
aging infrastructure, Amtrak is anticipating future problems.

People at the meeting
called for better communication from Amtrak, some saying they haven’t forgotten
inconveniences they faced from Amtrak’s construction crews in the past.

Amtrak notified residents
living in the Black Point area Wednesday about the replacement of the Miamicock
Bridge, the railroad bridge over the Pattagansett River. Work begins Dec. 17 on
the $13.8-million project, which is also funded by federal stimulus money. Construction
will take place mostly in the daytime, but also at night and on weekends. An
access road off Old Black Point Road is being used by construction crews to
move heavy equipment and crews to the railroad tracks.

In a notice to neighbors,
Amtrak promised to make an attempt to limit the amount of noise generated by
the construction. Officials said all trains approaching the construction work
site will be required to sound their horns as they approach and pass through
the area.

"We know it’s going to
be loud and noisy. We’re bracing ourselves," said Louise Manwaring, whose
backyard faces the railroad tracks and staging area for large construction equipment
on Old Black Point Road. "We lived through the electrification. That was
unbelievable. We’ll just have to wait and see. So far they’ve been
accommodating."

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