NEW HAVEN (AP) - A federal judge has cleared the way for state and federal transportation officials to move forward with a $1.1 billion project to replace a 122-year-old movable railroad bridge in Norwalk.
U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill ruled against opponents of the plan, who argued in a lawsuit that there are cheaper alternatives for replacing or fixing the span.
The existing Walk Bridge, or Norwalk River Railroad Bridge, carries four tracks that serve about 200 trains daily, including Amtrak. It swings open to allow larger boats coming in from Long Island Sound to pass through to reach a gravel company, a marina and a once-industrial waterfront area that now holds chic condominiums.
But a conservation group, Norwalk Harbor Keeper and others say that unlike a century ago, few boats with tall masts currently pass in and out of the Norwalk River.
They had suggested replacing the current bridge, which pivots to open and allow tall vessels through, with a fixed span or welding the current bridge shut. They said that would save taxpayers millions of dollars and cause less disruption to the environment.
In his ruling, Underhill said the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. He also found the government made its decision properly after considering other options.
He said transportation officials had determined, for example, that the Coast Guard and other agencies would not approve further limiting navigation under the bridge.
“Defendants reasonably believed, based on comments made during initial scoping, that the agencies that would need to sign off on the project would not do so unless current navigability was maintained,” Underhill wrote.