U.S. Coast Guard officials said Thursday that engineers need the Norwalk Walk Bridge to be closed for an extended amount of time to make emergency repairs. The railroad bridge became stuck last week after letting maritime traffic through. It caused massive delays for thousands of Metro-North commuters.
Closing the bridge to boat traffic will mean money lost for some area businesses.
“If it closed for good, we’d lose all our sailboat traffic, which is probably half our business,” said Paul Tomko, co-owner of the United Marine Boat Yard in Norwalk. “There’s many places here a customer can bring their boat for repairs. They might like us, but if they have difficulty getting up here, they may go somewhere else.”
Tomko made and was granted a special request to send seven boats through the Walk Bridge on Saturday, but it could be the last time the bridge opens for a while.
“[I] said, ‘You know, this is a big impact. I’ll get all my boats together and I’ll go down to the bridge whenever it’s most convenient for the railroad,’ ” Tomko said.
Farther upstream, the owner of Devine Brothers worries about deliveries that come in on barges. He estimates this disruption in bridge service could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Despite potential loss to business, Sen. Richard Blumenthal says that an immediate fix is a must and that “the repair of the bridge and the needs of thousands of commuters along the nation’s busiest railroad must take precedence.”
Ernest Lorimer see the headaches on the both sides.
“I use the bridge both ways really,” he said with a laugh. “Going over it as a commuter and going through it as a boater.
Lorimer’s catamaran, serviced at Tomko’s boatyard, is part of the crew in the clear this weekend.
He thinks sending boats through the bridge in bulk is the best plan for now.
“None of the people who have boats here want to inconvenience commuters at all, so the idea of taking all of the boats downriver together to minimize that, is one of the ways that we can do a little bit to make everything work for everybody,” said Lorimer.
A spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Transportation said about 20 to 30 boats pass through the Walk Bridge a month.