Electrical Issues Kept Niantic River Bridge From Opening Temporarily

Electrical issues stopped the Niantic River Bridge from opening on command for the past couple of weeks, causing headaches for some boating businesses ahead of the holiday weekend.

On Wednesday, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) confirmed it the bridge back up and running normally.

"I was pretty worried about it," Tobey Russ, owner of Three Belles Marina, said.

 Russ said his marina likely houses the most sailboats within the Niantic River.

The bridge has about a 30-foot clearance, depending on the tide, and the sailboats need the bridge to open to pass through.

"We actually had several customers already starting to request refunds in the event that the bridge was going to be inoperable for some period of time,” Russ said.

An outside electrical surge took out the Niantic River Bridge’s electrical control system, according to Kevin Nursick, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

The state staffed people to manually open one side of the bridge at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. as they brought in outside contractors from Cianbro Corporation to help with the work, Nursick said.

The challenge is that the bridge's electrical controls are about 25 years older then the technology used today.

"They know it's our livelihood and it's a tough business to be in as it is,” Captain Joseph Devine of the MIJOY 747 said.

Devine said the state DOT offered to open the bridge whenever necessary so they didn't have to jeopardize business, but he didn't take them up on it because the tide was outgoing and they could turn the boat around before reaching the bridge.

The DOT struck luck too when they found an old circuit board in a warehouse that could be used as a fix instead of surfing for vintage parts.

Unrelated to the most recent issue, there is a plan in place to update the bridge’s electrical system in four or five years, according to Nursick. But he assures that the bridge has been very reliable over the years and will continue to be reliable.

“That’s a great relief to us and I'm sure all the marinas on the Niantic River,” Russ said.

East Lyme Harbor Master Richard Morris said he knows of only one woman who had to wait a week and a half to move her sailboat.

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