By Nina Markowitz
The ongoing Chappaqua bridge construction has caused a town full of
headaches. Construction began in late September of 2008 and–with shorts breaks in between for winter and budget concerns–rambles on. New Castle Town Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, who has worked hard to keep the project moving as smoothly as possible, has hope the bridge will be completed soon. “It’s a major project, separating the two parts of town,” Gerrard said. “It’s been under review and consideration for more than ten years.”The careful planning was itself a struggle. With the bridge badly deteriorated, there was no question that it needed a makeover. But the extent of the changes was a cause of much debate.
Chappaqua seemed split in two: the historical group that preferred the bridge as it was, natural charm and stonework preserved; and the second group which called for a practical expansion of the bridge from two lanes to three and complete modernization.
Asthetics aside, the biggest change the bridge will undergo is the addition of a third lane. Gerrard hopes this will reduce traffic in the town dramatically.
“The only way they could build the bridge and [simultaneously] enable it to have two way traffic at all times was to have three lanes,” Gerrard explained. “That way they can be demolishing one lane while the other two were still active.”
Construction–headed by the Conti Group–included demolishing and reconstructing lanes, replacing huge support beams, and placing stones on the retaining walls to maintain the bridge’s charming look. While this seems like a laundry list of giant tasks, Gerrard believes the work is likely to wrap up not too far behind schedule.
“It could conceivably be completed by the end of the construction time for this year, like the end of November of 2010,” she said. “If the weather holds and a lot of other things work out.” The original plan estimated construction to be completed by September 2010, or even earlier. The new, later estimate is due to rainy weather that prevented work on the bridge. By the time the new deadline rolls around, Gerrard hopes the bridge will be smooth and have all three lanes open for use. However, she does acknowledge the possibility of work on the bridge extending into spring.
“We’re hoping it will only be part of the aesthetics, like finishing the stonework,” she said. “There may be lighting fixtures that have to be added. But we’re hoping all the lanes of traffic will be open by the end of this year.”
The issue of the bridge construction has been about more than potholes and weaving through florescent cones. With two thirds of Chappaqua’s population on the side of west side town, and the rest of the population and emergency responders on the east side of town, the bridge acts as an obstacle between them. Increased traffic and lane closures due to construction could possibly delay help from crossing to the other side of town. “It’s a big deal when you can’t get your responders to two thirds of the population,” Gerrard said. The bridge construction also includes adding an additional waterline underneath the bridge. “It would give support if there’s any problem with the waterline over here. There will be a supplemental waterline it
could go to.”
The waterline was paid for by the town of Chappaqua. The bridge, which costs $19 million, was paid 80% by the Federal Government and 20% by the State Government. Data and figures aside, the construction has had very real impacts on the lives of residents.
“[When construction stopped], everyone was forced to drive by the portable walkway as well as the unfinished, unattractive construction site that left one of the busiest intersections in Chappaqua with narrow lanes and heavy traffic,” said lifetime resident Alexandra Ferrari. “Not to mention how that is the first thing people see entering our town.” Maggie Goldberg, who works the counter at Pizza Station located just next to the bridge, commutes to work from Ardsley and drives through the construction twice per day. “It’s pretty bumpy and narrow,” she said. “The sooner they get it finished, the better.”
Nina Markowitz graduated in June from the University of Miami with a degree in International Studies and Print Journalism. An Armonk resident, Nina is moving to Stockholm, Sweden, this fall to work at the American Embassy.