Amtrak Niantic River Bridge replacement completed

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Amtrak has completed its three-year Niantic River Bridge Replacement Project, “which provides improved operational reliability for rail passengers along the Northeast Corridor with increased train speeds, less disruption to the boating community, and expanded beach access to area residents,” the railroad said on Monday, June 24.

The work involved construction of a new two-track electrified movable bascule bridge across the Niantic River, 58 feet south of its previous location between East Lyme and Waterford, Conn., realignment of the track along the west and east approaches to the bridge, track embankment construction, scour protection, new retaining walls, and the creation of new electrification and signaling systems. The original span was built in 1907.

The boating community is also benefiting from the project. The new bridge is constructed with broader channel access for maritime traffic from 45 feet to 100 feet and raises the vertical under clearance above the water from 11.5 feet to 16 feet. Also, Amtrak rebuilt the Niantic Bay Boardwalk, replenished the beach with 76,000 cubic yards of sand, and nearly doubled the number of parking spaces at Cini Park in East Lyme, Conn., to 127 spaces, increasing public beach access. The refurbished beach and boardwalk reopened to the public in early June in time for the summer season.

The new bridge continues to serve as a key link for passenger and freight rail traffic between New York and Boston, carrying 54 trains daily (38 Amtrak intercity trains, 2 Providence & Worcester freight trains, and 14 Shore Line East trains). “The replacement of the Niantic Bridge is a positive step in modernizing and enhancing critical rail infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor that supports the regional economy,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.

“The replacement of the Niantic River Bridge was one of the most visible and complex projects supported by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and its completion is an important milestone for our region and our country,” Congressman Joe Courtney said. “This new bridge is a key link for passenger and freight rail traffic between New York and Boston, and will support efficient rail service for many years to come. Completion of this bridge will leave a lasting legacy for rail service in our area, and I applaud Amtrak, state and local officials, and other stakeholders for their close teamwork in making this project a reality.”

“The Town of East Lyme is proud to have been a partner with Amtrak during the past three years and is thrilled with the replacement of the old bridge,” said East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica. “The new railroad bridge along with the renovation of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk and Cini Park are world class and will significantly improve and enhance regional travel by both rail and water. This area will be enjoyed by the region for generations to come. Great job Amtrak!”

“It is with great excitement that I look at our new railroad bridge over the Niantic River,” said Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward. “The results are wonderful and the contractors have done a great job of keeping us informed and answering our requests. Hopefully, the new larger opening will help with water traffic and the ability to help water flow in and out of the river. We are proud to have this new bridge and pleased that it is completed. Thanks again to Amtrak for all of their efforts in this regard.”

After the original bridge was demolished this spring, a portion of its remnants were donated by Amtrak to the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum for preservation and to the towns of East Lyme and Waterford for future use and display to the general public.

The project was funded, in part, by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was constructed by Cianbro/Middlesex Joint Venture VII Group from Littleton, Mass. Partners in the project included the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, Town of East Lyme, Town of Waterford, U.S. Coast Guard, and the East Lyme Public Trust Foundation.