WALLINGFORD — A proposal to replace the culvert that runs underneath the Wharton Brook Connector would have minimal impact on traffic, the wetlands and the local bat population, state Department of Transportation officials said.
DOT engineers and representatives from CME Associates, Inc., an East Hartford-based engineering firm, presented a preliminary design for the $910,000 project Wednesday at a public information session at Town Hall.
The Wharton Brook Connector (Route 702) runs east-west from Route 5 to exit 13 on Interstate 91. Each side has two travel lanes and carries more than 15,000 vehicles daily, according to the DOT.
Wharton Brook, the waterway, bisects and flows south underneath the roadway through an asphalt-coated corrugated steel pipe culvert.
Installed in 1965, the culvert is 262 feet long, 13 feet wide and 15 feet tall, with concrete headwall and wingwalls on spread footings. There’s 15 to 18 feet of fill above the culvert.
The DOT routinely inspects bridges and other structures for deficiencies, and ranks them on a scale of 1-9, with 9 being the best.
The latest inspection of the Wharton Brook Connector bridge culvert was in 2017. The DOT ranked the overall structure at 4, or poor and structurally deficient.
The steel pipe is showing extensive rust along the waterline and loss of asphalt coating below the waterline.
The cutoff walls and wingwall footing are exposed. There’s also stream bank erosion upstream.
The plan is to remove sediment buildup from inside the culvert, fill pipe perforations with grout, install concrete lining to pipe inverts and high concrete baffles to reduce flow and aid fish passage, and install rounded stone riprap to eroded footings, cutoff walls and stream banks.
Water would be diverted through 5-and-a-half-foot pipes within the culvert.
The project is scheduled to begin is spring 2021 and conclude in the fall.
Work would not impact traffic or adjacent properties, since all work would be performed in the state right-of-way.
The project needs state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection permits only, and won’t have any oversight from town land use departments.
Environmental impacts include protections for federally listed animal species and Northern Long-Eared bats.
Temporary access roads would be built for construction crews, and the affected wetlands would be restored with shrubs and trees.
Rob Baltramaitis, town engineer, said Thursday that DOT engineers met with town staff about their plans.
“I think this is going to go unnoticed for the most part,” he said. “It’s basically replacing the bottom of the culvert. It’s not an open excavation.”
Baltramaitis said he had concerns about the construction access roads, which at first were meant to be left in place so DOT crews could access the site in the future to maintain the culvert.
“The concern I had at that time was not turning the roads into a convenient dumping ground for people to dispose debris,” he said. “They’ve since added gates to prevent that.”
Anyone who wishes to give input on the project can contact Dobie Kania, project engineer, at Dobieslawa.Kania@ct.gov or call the state DOT information line at 860-594-2000.
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