WALLINGFORD — It may feel like construction to replace the century-old East Center Street bridge began many years ago.
In reality, it’s only been two years, but a Center Street (Route 150) business owner is wondering if there’s any end in sight. Work has been halted for about a year for redesigns.
Srijan Katwal, the manager of Global Food Mart and gas station at 570 Center St., said business has been slowed by the uncompleted bridge replacement.
“We invested so much money in here,” Katwal said Monday — installing new gas tanks and expanding the convenience store. “We started working, and they stopped working.”
The business reopened in February, but the issue of the bridge work remained. The main problem, Katwal said, is obstructed access to the business.
“Sometimes, a few customers come in,” he said, “and they say, ‘you guys are open but I can’t come in because traffic is bad. I have to come out of it, I don’t want to waste the time.’”
The construction equipment and dumpsters left by the contractor, New Haven-based C.J. Fucci Inc., are blocking the view of his business, Katwal said.
Not all business owners are complaining. Lucy Pacheco, owner of Lucy’s Laundry at 549 Center St., said her customers were inconvenienced more before the work halted.
“When they’re working, that’s when I see the problem,” Pacheco said Monday. “People want to drop off their laundry, and when they’re working, the road gets so busy it’s not easy to get the customers.”
Kevin Nursick, a state Department of Transportation spokesman, said Monday that the construction timeline has been extended and a new timeline is hard to pin down. He said it will be at least two more months before work can resume, and the project is now expected to last until the summer of 2020.
“This is kind of a rarity,” he said. “In this business, there’s always the potential for unforeseen circumstances.”
The original price was $4 million and completion date was Nov. 30, 2018.
A new price that reflects changes in magnitude, order and scope of work will be available after negotiations with the contractor are completed.
Nursick said since the bridge’s structural integrity was under review, “this is not a circumstance we can afford to rush, or else the consequences can be significant.”
The DOT, which is responsible for maintenance because Route 150 is a state highway, rated the 104-year-old bridge over Wharton Brook structurally deficient, and recommended replacement to meet current design standards.
Bridge replacement work began in August 2016. The construction area spans from Elm Street to Pomeroy Avenue.
The project calls for a concrete deck over a steel girder superstructure supported by concrete abutments resting on bedrock. The new bridge will be about 13 feet longer and 1 foot wider than the old bridge, and it will have sidewalks on each side.
The bridge replacement is being done in two phases, and it’s now in the middle of the first phase. Traffic was pushed to the south side, and the north side of the bridge was demolished.
Construction delays began when the contractor raised concerns that demolition work on the abutments could destabilize the support structure.
DOT had to verify the stability of the existing abutment, and found the structure was stable but in need of some minor redesigns necessary for a temporary earth retaining system.
“We added additional piles,” Dan Stasko, DOT supervising engineer, said Monday, “which reinforced the temporary shoring for the existing structure.”
Work has been stopped for about a year. Since the project has been delayed for so long, Stasko said, there were some price increases that DOT and the contractor are still settling.
“We are very close to having the initial portion of it resolved,” he said, “enough to get (the contractor) back to work.”