New bridge opens for traffic
The Ledyard Bridge, the heavily traveled structure near Interstate 91 that has been undergoing extensive construction for two years, opened two eastbound lanes to traffic earlier this week.
The construction of a new bridge to replace the old, deteriorating structure has been ongoing since 1995, and the opening of two lanes on Monday signals the halfway point in the project.
The bridge -- which connects Hanover to Norwich, Vt. over the Connecticut River -- is expected to be entirely constructed by the spring of 1999 by Moores Marine Construction Company, Hanover Chief of Police Nick Giaccone said.
The remaining half of the bridge to be constructed will encroach upon the old section the bridge -- which is still safe to drive on, but has been slowly deteriorating for the past several years.
Once construction is completed next year, the new Ledyard Bridge will be 62-feet wide and will also accommodate pedestrians and cyclists crossing the Connecticut River with sidewalks and bike paths.
Demolition of the old bridge will continue throughout the winter months, despite the cold weather.
But the onset of winter necessitates the postponement of construction of the bridge's other half until the spring of 1998 -- when more favorable building conditions return to the Hanover area, Giaccone said.
Traffic backlogs on West Wheelock Street have been a frequent problem, directly due to the continued bridge construction. Despite the partial opening of the new bridge and the closing of the old, this is expected to continue.
"Occasionally there will be traffic problems based on the type of the work completed on the Hanover side of the bridge," Giaccone said. "There is still the potential for disruption."
Though the official finish date for production was pushed back to the spring of 1999, Giaccone said the contractors are still aiming for the initially proposed finish date of the fall of 1998.
Whether or not the entire Ledyard Bridge project will meet its intended budget of $12.3 million is still not known, according to Giaccone.
Construction of the Ledyard Bridge was delayed for a total of four weeks this summer due to problems with the project's contractors and financial difficulties, Giaccone said. However, the complex staging and completion of the project has also contributed to the construction work falling well behind schedule.