It will be years before the 118-year-old Walk Bridge in Norwalk will be replaced, but a state task force is looking into some short-term possibilities after the bridge was stuck open, twice, halting Metro-North service in southwestern Connecticut.
A Short Term Action Team that includes state Department of Transportation engineers and bridge inspectors, Metro-North engineers, as well as consultant bridge inspectors and engineers met in Norwalk on Monday to inspect the bridge, which spans the Norwalk River in southwestern Connecticut.
The bridge was stuck open twice in about two weeks, causing major service disruptions.
When the bridge was stuck open for the Friday evening commute on June 6, many commuters waited hours for buses or walked more than a mile to reach the other side of the bridge.
DOT Commissioner James Redeker said in a statement that preliminary design has begun to replace the Walk Bridge, but immediate steps are necessary to ensure its reliability.
“At Governor Malloy’s urging, I am empowering our STAT team to take whatever actions are necessary to make sure that we can count on the bridge to open and close as needed, without any glitches,” Redeker said.
Several residents were frustrated by the problems and the impact on their commute.
Cindy McConaghy, of Norwalk, commutes to New York City every day and said something has to be done to fix the bridge.
"For something that's nearly 120 years old, it's amazing it's lasted this long, so it has to be fixed," McConaghy said.
With the long-term goal of replacing the bridge still years away, DOT, Metro-North and MTA created the short-term action team to find short-term solutions to improve the bridge's reliability.
"Right now, Metro North is manually opening and closing the bridge, which gives them a greater degree of control over that bridge and gives an assurance that it will open and close correctly," DOT Assistant Rail Administrator John Bernick said.
Commuters said the fixes can't come soon enough.
"If there's consistent enough issues, you have to fix it at some point," James Gilchrist, of East Norwalk, said.
"They just have to decide what they're going to do and do it. Forge ahead. Don't prolong it because eventually it's just going to keep happening again. It has to be fixed," McConaghy said.
Officials emphasize that, despite the failures, the bridge is safe and structurally sound.
A report with recommendations is expected in about 30 days.