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Sunday, November 18 News

Study spanning history of Saugatuck bridge fine-tuned

WESTPORT — A town committee on Thursday put finishing touches to a 35-page report lobbying for local historic designation of the 132-year-old Saugatuck swing bridge and areas abutting the bridge on both sides of the river.

The Saugatuck Swing Bridge Study Subcommittee meticulously reviewed each page of the report, noting the information provides local context and background that town and state officials may not know.

"Some of the local information that was not told was some of the back stories behind the formation of this crossing in the first place — how this town struggled for decades about how to get across, the political intrigue, the physical limitations, the arrival of the railroad," subcommittee member Morley Boyd said.

"The state of Connecticut knows none of the local significance to the town of Westport and this report really links our lives with that bridge and the development of this town and puts it all together in one report," he added.

The fate of the 287-foot-long metal bridge, built in 1884, has yet to be determined. The bridge, officially called the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge, was deemed "structurally obsolete" by the state Department of Transportation last fall, which prompted a detailed study on the best way to address the span’s condition. A state Rehabilitation Studies Report on the bridge is expected to be made public this month. The bridge — the oldest moveable span in the state — is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Saugatuck Swing Bridge Subcommittee Chairman Bob Weingarten said the finished report is a culmination of many hours of hard work by the subcommittee.

"The committee first met in December and we have been working on the report since then,” he said. “There’s been quite a bit of information put into the report so that the people of Westport can understand about the different political aspects of the bridge and how the town wanted to protect the bridge over the years, 1884 until now.”

The report will be submitted May 25 to the Historic District Commission. If accepted by the HDC, it will go to the Planning and Zoning Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office for review and comments.

@chrismmarquette / cmarquette@bcnnew.com

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