Starting tonight, there’ll be limited boat access to and from the Niantic River.
Amtrak’s new Niantic River railroad bridge, which has been in the open vertical position for most of the construction period, is going to be closed from 9 p.m. July 15 until 9 p.m. July 17 to fix a slight problem with the alignment of the lift span that, if not adjusted, will affect the bridge’s ability to open and close.
The bridge being in the horizontal position won’t have any impact on small power boats but boats that need more than 16 feet of clearance from the waterline to the top of the boat won’t be able to pass beneath it.
Boats that are too tall to pass include local commercial fishing vessels, charter fishing boats, large party boats, and sailing vessels that have masts too tall to clear the bridge span.
Local fishermen and charter boat companies are not too happy about the closure, particularly as it’s coming at the height of the summer season. Some commercial fishing boats and charter boat companies have arranged to dock in New London for a few days.
The U.S. Coast Guard started sending out radio broadcasts on Saturday afternoon about the bridge span’s limited clearance. The broadcast alerts will go out every two hours to let all vessels, including privately-owned yachts, know that they won’t be able to pass between Niantic Bay and the Niantic River for the next two days.
Amtrak’s announcement about this forced closure comes on the heels of an otherwise promising progress report about the construction project.
“The next major milestone for bridge-related elements of this project will be to shift rail traffic to the new structure with the first track scheduled to open later this summer followed by the second track sometime this fall,” Amtrak announced in a July 9 press release.
“In spring 2013, the existing bridge will be demolished. The three-year project, which began in April 2010, is being constructed at a cost of $140 million," Amtrak stated. "It remains on-schedule with an estimated completion date of May 2013.”
The existing Niantic River Bridge, which is still in service while the new railroad bridge is being completed, remains unaffected and will operate as usual.
The current two-track, rolling lift bridge has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1907. It is one of the oldest movable bridges in the country and is one of five along the Northeast Corridor rail line between New Haven and Boston.