Niantic Bridge Project No Cause for Alarm

Amtrak train No. 170 flies across "Old Nan" connecting East Lyme and Waterford, Connecticut. Photo by Leo King, ##http://www.nationalcorridors.org/##National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

Replacement of the Amtrak railroad bridge spanning the Niantic River in East Lyme, Connecticut, is turning out to be a relative non-issue for local boaters, fishermen and marina operators in East Lyme. “Right now it isn’t that bad,” says Tom Greco, who works at Three Belles Marina north of the bridge. “Most of the work is being done at night, and the Coast Guard lets the local marinas know when the channel is being closed.” From June 20 through October 15, 2010, the channel will be closed between 10 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Sunday and Monday nights. On Independence Day and Labor Day weekends it will remain open 24 hours a day.

Niantic Chart, Bridge Detail
Replacement of the ancient and breakdown-prone bridge…is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Given that most of the work is scheduled to take place at night, fishermen stand to be most affected by the work. However, as of mid-June, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for most. “Right now, it hasn’t been affecting [local anglers],” said Shane Driscoll of Hillyers Tackle. “The bridge needs to get built, and they are keeping us posted on the work, so that [anglers] can plan trips around it. In August, when the offshore bite is happening and fishermen often need to leave at night, they will open the channel at set times.” Amtrak is even going so far as to withhold work during summer nights around the full and new moons, when striper fishermen typically need access to the Sound.

Niantic Harbormaster Joseph Hitchery confirms that Amtrak and its contractors have made a good effort to accommodate boaters and fishermen during the lengthy project. “Closures are not a problem, at least during daylight hours,” he said, although he could not say for certain what the future would hold, especially given the extent of the project.

Before project work began, Amtrak held a series of public meetings with local boaters and marine businesses to address their concerns, and has set up a website and hotline (800-288-1310) to provide information the project. Further, the Coast Guard issues weekly Notice to Mariners to local marinas detailing when the channel will be closed to traffic.

Replacement of the ancient and breakdown-prone bridge, which most boaters agree is necessary, is scheduled to be completed in 2013. The new bascule bridge will widen the channel from 40 to 100 feet and provide vertical clearances of 15 feet (current clearance is 11 feet) when closed, and unlimited clearance when open.

Bridge Facts:

  • The original Niantic railroad bridge, known as “Old Nan”, was constructed in 1907. It is the oldest of the 5 moveable bridges still operating on the Boston-to-New York rail line.
  • The old bridge has been prone to breakdowns in recent years, including an incident that blocked boating traffic for a week.
  • The bridge is used to carry Acela high-speed trains.
  • Estimated cost of the bridge replacement is $105 million.

Information:

  • Amtrak: (800-288-1310)
  • Niantic Harbormaster: Joseph Hitchery (860-739-5900)