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FHWA Awards $158M Large Bridge Grant to Gold Star Memorial Bridge, the Longest Bridge in Connecticut

by: Jessica Hoover
Underneath the northbound span of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London
Underneath the northbound span of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London
Underneath the northbound span in New London
Underneath the northbound span in New London
Gold Star Memorial Bridge workers work underneath the northbound span trusses during Phase 1A of the project.
Gold Star Memorial Bridge workers work underneath the northbound span trusses during Phase 1A of the project.
Gold Star Memorial Bridge workers perform truss strengthening work on the northbound span for Phase 1A.
Gold Star Memorial Bridge workers perform truss strengthening work on the northbound span for Phase 1A.
A worker grinds rivets on the bridge.
A worker grinds rivets on the bridge.
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge from the Thames River looking toward the Long Island Sound. The Thames River Amtrak bridge can be seen behind it.
The Gold Star Memorial Bridge from the Thames River looking toward the Long Island Sound. The Thames River Amtrak bridge can be seen behind it.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has awarded a $158 million Large Bridge Grant to a Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) project that will rehabilitate the northbound structure of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge between New London, and Groton, Connecticut. The grant is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Bridge Investment Program, which is contributing to the Biden-Harris Administration’s largest dedicated investment in highway bridges since the construction of the Interstate highway system.

“Safe, modern bridges ensure that first responders can get to calls more quickly, shipments reach businesses on time, and drivers can get to where they need to go,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to award this historic funding to modernize large bridges that are not only pillars of our economy, but also iconic symbols of their states’ past and future.”

With nearly 60,000 vehicles traveling across the bridge daily, the Gold Star Memorial Bridge is a vital connection on the I-95 corridor for people and goods traveling between New York and New England. The bridge’s northbound span carries five lanes of traffic across the Thames River and is the longest bridge in Connecticut. However, the bridge’s deck and superstructure components are currently in poor condition, causing the northbound bridge to be load restricted, which prohibits oversized and overweight vehicles from crossing and takes them on a 17-mile detour.

The rehabilitation of the northbound structure will address structural repairs, increase load capacity, and eliminate the load restriction for overweight vehicles. In addition, the project will add a multi-use path to the bridge, which currently only carries vehicular traffic. The new multi-use path will make bicycling and walking across the Thames River possible and will provide an alternative to vehicular traffic between New London and Groton.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to pay dividends to Connecticut,” Governor Ned Lamont said. “Ensuring people and freight can move safely and efficiently across the Thames River is so important. This project helps reduce congestion, lower emissions, and is an economic driver of eastern Connecticut.”

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For ease of construction and to minimize traffic disruption, the rehabilitation work will be completed using two separate construction contracts, the first contract including Phase 1A and the second contract encompassing Phase 1B and Phase 2. Construction on Phase 1A already began in April 2022, and is estimated to be complete by June 2025. Phases 1B and 2 are expected to begin shortly after in July 2025, with an anticipated completion in November 2029. The funds from the Large Bridge Grant will go toward Phase 1B and Phase 2 and will allow CTDOT to combine both phases and work on them simultaneously.

“Because of the combination of those two phases, we're estimated to save about a year's worth of work,” said Shannon King Burnham, Strategic Communications Manager for CTDOT. “The work is estimated to be completed a year sooner, so the bridge will be safer sooner, and oversized and overweight vehicles will be able to use it sooner. The grant gave us the flexibility to do that, to accelerate our work on the bridge.”

HNTB has been selected as the consultant for Phase 1B and Phase 2. The entire scope of work for both phases is estimated to cost $316 million and will include:

  • Strengthening steel elements of girder approach spans to accommodate all legal and permit vehicles
  • Replacing the entire bridge deck and parapets
  • Performing load rating
  • Strengthening select steel elements of truss spans
  • Replacing girder bearings and select truss bearings
  • Portal bracing/seismic retrofits
  • Repairing the concrete substructure
  • Replacing sign supports
  • Repairing/improving navigational and roadway lighting
  • Repairing/improving drainage features
  • Accomplishing minor protective painting of steel elements
  • Installing the multi-use path for non-motorized travel

“Infrastructure investments like this increase the safety, longevity, and efficiency of one of our state’s most important bridges,” CTDOT Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said. “Thanks to the federal government’s commitment, this critical major project will be accelerated and completed faster.”

The Gold Star Memorial Bridge Project is also the largest project underway in Connecticut that includes a Project Labor Agreement with the building trades, providing good paying jobs and workforce development training for the next generation of workers.

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