Route 74 bridge to get a makeover

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Tue., Apr. 19, 2011
CT DOT Project Engineer Andrew Cardinali shows a group of Tolland residents a photo of some degradation on the underside of the bridge that caused the state to initiate the remediation plans. Photos by Steve Smith.
CT DOT Project Engineer Andrew Cardinali shows a group of Tolland residents a photo of some degradation on the underside of the bridge that caused the state to initiate the remediation plans. Photos by Steve Smith.

Some minor concerns about traffic and the overall length of the project were expressed by residents at a recent meeting, but otherwise it seems that a local bridge will get a complete makeover within the next two years.

Representatives of the Connecticut Department of Transportation met with Tolland town officials and residents at Hicks Memorial Municipal Center on April 18 to discuss plans to rehabilitate Bridge #840.

The span, which carries Route 74 (Tolland Stage Road) across I-84, is in need of remediation. The two-span, two-lane bridge was originally constructed in 1952, and is 210 feet long and 40 feet wide.

State Bridge Design Principal Engineer Joseph Cancelliere said the project was initiated under the guidelines of the state’s bridge renewal program, and the purpose of the meeting was to receive any resident comments or concerns.

“The objective of that program is to evaluate bridges on the state highway system which are found to be in poor condition,” he said, “and to develop plans, specifications and estimates to rehabilitate those structures. The ultimate goal is to ensure the safety of the motoring public.”

Cancelliere said every bridge in the state is inspected at least once every two years, and those found to be in poor condition are sent to his office for corrective action.

“During a routine inspection of this bridge, it was noted that there is a significant amount of cracking in the original concrete deck,” Cancelliere said. “This is the first indication that there is a problem with the bridge.”

Samples taken from the bridge's concrete deck indicated an excessively high concentration of chlorides, which is caused by years of de-icing salts applied to the riding surface of the bridge. The salts seep through the concrete and degrade the steel reinforcement of the bridge.

“It's a cycle of degradation that is typical of New England bridges,” Cancelliere said.

Project Engineer Andrew Cardinali said the paint on the underside of the bridge rates a 3 on a scale of 1 to 9, meaning that it is “needing to be addressed.”

The rehabilitation will take place in two stages, which will restrict traffic to one lane only while the other lane has a new concrete deck installed. The existing expansion bearings, which have become rusted over time, will also be replaced, as will the paint on the steel underside of the deck. A 6-foot-high protective fence, which is the new standard for highway bridge reconstructions, will also be installed on both sides of the road.

Temporary supports underneath the deck will also be added during the construction, to help handle the traffic load on the single lane.

Microwave-controlled alternating stoplights will control the traffic on Route 74.

“The microwave will detect when a vehicle approaches,” Cardinali said, “and switch the signal. There will also be emergency vehicle pre-emption, which allows emergency vehicles to have the right-of-way.”

Cardinali said the eastbound lane will be improved in stage one of the project, then the westbound lane in stage two. Those stages are expected to be completed in the spring-summer construction period of 2012. In 2013's season, the painting of the underside of the bridge will take place, but will not interfere with traffic on Route 74.

Officials added that, because all of the work will take place on the state right-of-way, no utility relocations are necessary, and there are no wetlands issues, so the permitting process should be “fairly straightforward.” The new structure will have “extended longevity,” Cardinali said.

The project will go out for bidding in the fall of this year, and is expected to cost between $1 million and $2 million, and will be funded completely by the state.

Resident Karen Kramer asked whether the new fencing would be required. “Is that mandated by state statute?” she asked.

Cancelliere said he was unsure if there was an actual statute, but added that the policy of his department has been to add the fences when a bridge is restructured.

State Rep. Bryan Hurlburt (D-53rd District), a Tolland resident, said he was concerned about the current project of replacing another Route 74 bridge over the Willimantic River about a quarter mile away on the border with Willington, and how the two projects might overlap, time-wise.

“Since that one's been in the queue for some time now,” Hurlburt said, “what is the priority between the two?”

Cancelliere said that the Willimantic River bridge project is actually handled by another office within the DOT.

“I [first] heard of that project tonight,” Cancelliere said. “We're a very large organization and bridge projects are initiated by more than one unit. There hasn't been a need to coordinate with them.”

“It's of the highest priority that the impact be minimized for the residents of both communities,” Hurlburt said. “I want to make sure the two projects are being coordinated.”

Cancelliere added that he would look into the matter, but that the likelihood would be that the relatively short, one-season traffic impact for bridge #840 would have little or no overlapping interference with the Willimantic bridge project, as delays may push that project beyond this one's time frame.

“We're about as clean as a project comes,” Cancelliere said. “As we talk about the schedule of this project, we think we're delivering. We're very confident that we're going to bring this on schedule.”

For more information or questions regarding the project, contact Joseph Cancelliere, state bridge design principal engineer, at

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