One of the biggest, if not most important, parts of the City’s Streetscape Project is finally coming to fruition. One June 1, state and local officials gathered near the Route 72 bridge to celebrate the beginning of the Beehive Bridge reconstruction.
As part of the Streetscape Project, begun under former Mayor Timothy Stewart, a way of connecting the two ends of downtown was a goal. After about five years of planning for the bridge, construction began last week.
“This project started on a piece of notebook paper that I had,” said Mayor Erin Stewart. “When I first became mayor I said what would it take to transform downtown?”
Mayor Stewart said the highway split downtown between Broad Street and Main Street.
“The bridge is open, scary and intimidating in many ways,” Mayor Stewart said.
The new bridge utilizes ornamental color walls with the design based on the flight of a bee to shield pedestrians from the noise and sight of Route 72. It utilizes LED ornamental lightings to help make the new overpass as attractive at night as it is in the day.
The Beehive Bridge project also introduces two pockets parks on the north side of the overpass which will help make the span of the overpass seem shorter. The Beehive Bridge’s art and architectural features were developed during a conceptual design phase that was overseen and voted on by a working group in 2015, and its design involved a very public process. Several concepts for incorporating art and architecture that drew inspiration from the City’s rich past were developed and modified until one concept was ultimately voted on and then taken into the project’s design phase.
Mark Moriarty, public works director, said it was amazing that the City actually got to this point.
“This was nothing like I’ve ever done and nothing I will ever do again,” Moriarty said. “We knew we wanted to create something special.”
Moriarty said a lot of concepts were looked at and a working group voted on the two final concepts.
“The project if terribly complicated,” Moriarty added.
It is expected to be completed in the Fall 2019.
Over $4.3 million for the bridge is coming from State and Federal grants. About $780,000 is from miscellaneous grants and $2.37 million is from City bonding.
Gerry Amodio, executive director of the New Britain Downtown Ditsrict, thanked Mayor Erin Stewart for backing the project with her full heart.
“We send a great appreciation to both the state and federal agencies that made this project possible. But more importantly to Mayor Erin Stewart for backing these transit oriented development projects to make our downtown a visual and ethetic place for people to visit, shop, eat and be entertained,” said Amodio. “New Britain’s award winning streetscape program has provided us with a safer, more walkable and inviting downtown. We embrace Connecticut’s Fastrak transportation and with it came many opportunities.”
Amodio said the projects going on in New Britain shows the mission is being accomplished of making it a better place to live, work and play.
“As an engineer, it was terribly exciting and scary to be asked to create an iconic structure in downtown New Brirain,” said Ted DiSantos, senior vice president of Fuss & O’Neill. “We were so thrilled to be involved and grateful for the City’s trust.”
DiSantos said the bridge will be uniquely New Britain and something for all of us to be proud of.
Lyle Ray of the Capital Region of Council of Governments, said this is another critical building block in rebuilding New Britain and making it an attractive place to be.
“New Britain has become the sweet spot of Fastrak,” said Commissioner James Redeker of the Department of Transportation. “It represents everything that Fastrak was built to accomplish. Nothing represents smart transportation better than New Britain.”