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State DOT warns: Get ready for congestion in Stamford’s South End

November 30, 2018

STAMFORD — The state Department of Transportation held its eighth informational meeting on its ambitious plan to replace the Atlantic Street railroad bridge while maintaining train service this week — the message was the same as previous ones: Get ready for congestion in the South End.

The plan will close a sliver of Atlantic Street just south of the Interstate-95 overpass for six months starting in late February.

That sliver, although fewer than 100 feet, means a lot to all city residents who live below the rail line. It pushes traffic, some 4,100 vehicles a day on average, to three other arteries in and out of the South End. Part of the project calls for more closures nearby later on.

At a meeting Thursday evening, about a dozen residents focused on the three remaining arteries and nearby intersections. They pressed the state and city to manage traffic beyond detour signs. Drivers often block boxes around the area, residents said. This will only make it worse.

“This is going to cause tremendous disruption and impact the quality of life for those who live in Stamford,” Shippan resident Anne Quinn said. “This is not about inconvenience. This is about getting to and from your house.”

Quinn said the closure — and all the traffic — could make her commute hellish if not properly managed. She, and others, called on the city and DOT to have police stationed at intersections around the “epicenter” of the closure and actively direct drivers.

Resident Engineer Kevin Conroy and city Transportation Bureau Chief Jim Travers said they will closely watch the issue, but Conroy said their options are limited.

“We can’t create new streets,” he said. “All we can do is regulate traffic.”

The $75 million bridge replacement has been discussed for years and work began in August preparing for this second phase of the project. Next comes the congestion-inducing demolition of the old bridge and the piece-by-piece construction of a new one.

Starting in February, the DOT will begin building a median column to support the new bridge as it takes apart the old one. The department needs to close the road because the column construction will leave just feet on either side of the roadway for passing traffic, Conroy said.

Keeping the road open is also impossible because Atlantic Street will be lowered by about 4 feet, Conroy said.

As the structural pier goes up, four bridge-length panels will be built north of the bridge, two to the south. The pieces will be rolled in from South State Street and Dock Street from late June to early July.

The roll-in period will be the most taxing on drivers, Conroy said, followed by the biggest impact to train riders. The five tracks will be reduced to just two from June 28 to July 8, Conroy said.

The change will result in a holiday-service schedule out of the train station, the busiest in the area — second only to Grand Central. The schedule has not yet been set or published, he said.

By Sept. 8, all roads will re-open, but work will be far from finished. For the next year, the DOT will work atop the tracks although that is not anticipated to affect drivers.

The department will hold more informational meetings as the Atlantic Street closure nears.

For more information, visit www.atlanticstreetbridge.com or sign up for updates by emailing info@atlanticstreetbridge.com.

barry.lytton@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton

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