Work to begin on $46 million rehab of Arrigoni Bridge, congested intersection in Middletown

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MIDDLETOWN — The state Department of Transportation will begin construction later this month on two projects totaling $46 million centered on bridge rehabilitation and street improvements to the intersection that leads to the structure.

That will be broken down into separate projects: $3.25 million will be spent on adding four more lanes to the roadway that leads to the Arrigoni Bridge into Portland and also allows access to the downtown, and $43 million worth of bridge repairs.

Both projects are being overseen by Mohawk Northeast of Plantsville.

Fixes to the 72-year-old structure are expected to take close to two years, during which motorists will experience lane closures, speed restrictions and travel disruptions.

Construction will begin Feb. 27, according to the state Department of Transportation. Work will include upgrading deteriorating approach spans carrying Routes 17 and 66 in Middletown and Portland over the Connecticut River, as well as deck replacements.

It will also involve “superstructure steel upgrades and repairs, as well as substructure repairs to improve the overall structural capacity, reliability and integrity of the bridge,” the DOT said in a press release.

Repairs to the 82-year-old bridge are set to begin on or about Feb. 27. That will include a new protective fence system ranging in height from 8 to 12 feet on the approach and main spans. Construction will be completed in three stages to maintain traffic flow and provide the contractor with space to complete the project, according to the DOT.

St. John’s Square project manager and state DOT engineer Stephen Hall said that portion of the project will address two safety issues of concern to residents.

It will include the addition of two more right and left turn lanes at Hartford Avenue in front of St. John Churchto ease the congestion of motorists coming off Route 9 south and heading over the bridge into Portland.

It also will allow quicker access to Main Street moving toward downtown, he said.

The purpose is to enact safety measures and address operational deficiencies. Geometric improvements will be made at St. John’s Square that will improve pedestrian and vehicular safety, while the intersection of Grand Street and Rapallo Avenue will be reconfigured to remove conflicting turning movements, Hall said.

Work will also be underway soon at Washington and Main streets to reduce congestion and improve walker safety.

“The pedestrian crossing from O’Rourke’s Diner to St. John Church has been realigned to improve the visibility of the pedestrians to the drivers on St. John’s Square. Additionally, sidewalk bump-outs at St. John’s Square, and at the intersection of Washington Street and Main Street, will improve pedestrian safety by shortening crossing distances and improving sight lines,” Hall said.

State officials are working with the city to schedule a public informational meeting prior to construction to alert people about what to expect, and offer possible impacts on their daily commute or routine, Hall said.

Meantime, the state will initiate a smaller project first — the closure of the Route 9 southbound exit at Miller and Bridge streets, by all public accounts a dangerous one. The design phase is now underway.

“That way we can focus our efforts on getting that completed while we still go through the design and alternates for removal of the traffic lights (at three exits in Middletown), Hall said.

Residents will access the neighborhood at the end of Portland Street, which is barricaded presently and only used by pedestrians and emergency personnel, Hall said. That will provide better access downtown. “We wanted them done separately to get it done sooner. If we grouped them together, the closure of Miller Street would be contingent on that project.”

To avoid conflicts, and for both projects to proceed as efficiently as possible for motorists and residents, the two projects were combined, with one contractor performing the work.

Nearly 34,000 vehicles a day cross the Arrigoni Bridge.

Reporter Jim Shay contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: The Arrigoni Bridge is 82 years old, not 72 as originally reported.