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When In Congress, Go Back To Congress Street Bridge, Himes Returns

June 12th, 2018 · 19 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Development and Zoning, National Politics, News and Events, State Politics

Ten years ago, challenging incumbent Republican Chris Shays, Jim Himes made his bones in Bridgeport barbecuing Shays on his failure to deliver bucks for a replacement drawbridge over the Pequonnock River to reconnect the East Side with Downtown forcing headquarters for the city’s Fire Department to navigate a longer route for responses after the bridge got stuck open in 1997. Shays crashed the bridge press conference of Himes, which only served to turn an okay story into a front-page event benefiting the challenger. Himes prevailed in the 2008 Barack Obama presidential tsunami led by a massive urban turnout. Himes negotiated the money to remove the stuck-open bridge, but the expense of a new one is another story. On Monday Himes assembled with city and state officials to declare they are closer, courtesy of a House vote that now needs Senate approval.

In the decade since Himes’ election every Republican opponent has taken him to task for not securing money for a new bridge that had a price tag of upwards of $40 million. The legislation passed by the House lessens the cost of the bridge to what city officials maintain is a more manageable $20 million because that section of the Pequonnock River has been deemed non-navigable, so the old drawbridge location can be replaced with a less expensive fixed structure.

At Monday’s news conference (see video above) Himes pointed out this is not a done deal, but a major step in reconnecting that portion of the East Side to Downtown. The city has earmarked $12 million in capital money toward the $20 million price tag of a new fixed bridge. It is counting on $8 million in federal funds to make the balance happen.

Officials conducted the news conference on Crescent Avenue on the East Side portion of the river to illustrate the disconnection from Downtown hammering home both the economic impact and public safety net a new bridge would bring.

Himes is running for reelection and Mayor Joe Ganim, also present at the event, is running for governor with a mayoral reelection next year if his underdog gubernatorial run dissipates. The Congress Street bridge, or lack of one, is a convenient spot for a photo opportunity.

Why, after 20 years, is this still a favorite vote-for-me location?

It all depends on a city’s priorities. During Bill Finch’s eight mayoral years the push was for federal dough for the Steelpointe Harbor redevelopment area of the East Side as well as Finch’s desire for a second city train station not far away, and still a long way, if it happens.

Congressional representatives, be it Republican Shays or Democrat Himes, tend to say okay folks, what’s your priority, only so much infrastructure dough to go around.

And that’s the way these things work.

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19 Comments so far ↓

  • Stringfellow

    Back in 2016 Manafort Brothers did the Capital Avenue overpass.
    What sticks in my head was the job was on a time frame and any overages was going to cost thousands of dollars per day.

    The road sections were built on exit 5 and when the time came they were moved and lowered in place. The job was done on time.

    I do not know what this job cost but if someone could ask Manafort or request through an FOI request, you could compare it to the numbers for the Congress Street bridge.

    The Route 25 span is longer then the Congress Street bridge so the cost could far less. If this project could mirror the Mandatory project the job could be done so much faster.

    The old span could be cut and removed by barge and the new span could be lowered in place.

    I think it’s worth looking into if nothing else, find out what the route 25 project cost. That number is your baseline to see if the current project is more or less expensive.

  • Owen Denzin

    10 years and this thing still isn’t fixed. This is typical of Jim Himes… all he loves to do is bash Trump and anything republican.. Why are the people in this town so foolish to vote for these incompetent democrats ? If he were a republican, his failure to deliver on the funding (FOR 10 YEARS!!) would be the headline every day

  • Local Eyes

    Meanwhile, in Himes’ district, Stamford has actual Harbor Development-isn’t that a cool term?
    Read the whole story here:
    https://westfaironline.com/103499/stamford-harbor-development-rolls-on-hinckley-boat-yard-latest-addition/

  • Ron Mackey

    Does anyone remember what the Republican plan for the Congress Street Bridge was?

    • Andrew C Fardy

      There probably wasnt one but whats the democratic plan other than to lead us around the maypole and do nothing. Himes spends his time in lower Fairfield county do you really thinks he gives a shit about the congress street bridge

      • Ron Mackey

        The only people who were really concern about the closing of that bridge was and still is the Bridgeport Fire Department because it changed the route to respond to emergency.

  • Tom White

    Fixing or replacing the Congress Street bridge was not a high priority for mayors or business community when Shays was in office. Shays focused on what they identified as priorities.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Himes is 100 full of shit

  • Bob Walsh

    Hey Joe,
    Did you ask Himes to sign your petition?

  • John Marshall Lee

    So a $30-40 Million drawbridge that would move to make way for traffic on a waterway, is no longer necessary, because after years of watching there is no traffic attempting to use the waterway.
    And therefore a standing span might suffice, and it would cost less. A grand idea. But City Fathers already could see change coming so they got authorization for bonding $12 Million from the City recently at the same time they were acting on refunding some existing debt. The info on the restructured debt indicated that some of it was at a 5% cost, greater than that which it was replacing it seems. Why?

    More important question: Did the bonds for Capital needs also go to market? If so then very soon there may be a single account in City offices with $12 Million in it? Who can see that account? Keep track of funds spent and bridge development according to plan? Does the City Council get a quarterly report on such matters for every Capital account still open from the past ten years? If they do not, who is the watchdog on such funds?

    Is it the failure to have such an elected watchdog that caused no one to raise a barking din on the eve of Ganim’s “second chance” electoral victory when more than $900,000 was drained from such a bond account of Office of Planning and Economic Development and sent to a lender in Westport. Who knew what the story was? Dave kooris in his final days asked a question and the Ganim gang chose to ignore this breach of financial practice and no consequences have ever been dealt. Shouldn’t this have been a “layup” for Ed Adams and his office of accountability and transparency? Perhaps the matter was never referred to the Police Chief? why is oversight so avoided in Bridgeport’s City Hall. Base on what Lennie has told us, when you are put on potty cleaning detail,if the potties aren’t up to the standard of the person in charge, you get to work on them again. Did Ganim forget about checking up on things, like pots of City money, not currently being used with any frequency? Time will tell.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    As Himes relies on the crooked electoral practices of the Bridgeport Democratic Town committee for job security he really ought to do more to secure federal funds for the city. Ganim can’t get state money because he’s a convicted felon.

  • Jimfox

    Himes should check out who owns most of the property east of the Congress Street Bridge. Before jumping in with both feet!

  • Donald Day

    Welcome back Derek, it’s been a minute.

  • Frank Gyure

    Why do we need the Congress St Bridge. We keep on talking about something to do with the Fire Department. I don’t think we need the Congress St Bridge. It’s 2018. Maybe 20 -30 years ago it might have made a difference. Today, it’s nothing.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Apparently, we can’t trust our leadership/representation to work to ensure a prosperous future for Bridgeport. The ability to use our interior water passages for the movement of people and materials/goods should be retained… We’ve waited over 20 years (so far) for replacement of the Congress Street Bridgeport (et al.)… The rush to announce the replacement this bridge — on the cheap (as a stationary, non-draw bridge) — during an election-year is truly sickening and can only reinforce the skepticism of the electorate concerning the sincerity and fitness of our elected representation in DC, Hartford, and locally…

    The timing, and apparently planned abandonment of Bridgeport’s full shipping/manufacturing potential, per the planned abandonment of river-shipping capacity, shouts of the planned, continued marginalization of Bridgeport and the continued, economically-destructive Stamfordization of Connecticut…

    The voters of Bridgeport should tell our Congressional delegation to shove this bridge at the polls in November… (In any event, it probably actually will be a “draw” bridge, and will only appear as a paper rendering, like most of the other infrastructure/non-Stamford commuter-housing development projects awaiting realization in Bridgeport for the past five decades…)

    But, truly; regardless of the design or destiny of this project, the election-cycle timing of yet another replacement announcement is just shameless and sickening — and not even the appropriate type of bridge…

  • Bob Halstead

    A new Bridge would make a speedway of Noble Avenue and lessen quality at Washington Park with congestion. Not needed
    Pedestrian draw bridge better
    Will function as a town green as well
    Making it fixed limits future recreational and economic development for the East Side

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