Bristol welcomes new South Street bridge

BRISTOL — After years of waiting, Bristol residents again have a bridge across South Street.
“It’s exciting,” said Dora Rivera, who lives on the west side of the bridge. “The crew did an awesome job.”
The span over the New Haven River was closed in July of 2010 after an Agency of Transportation inspection found it to be unsafe for vehicular traffic, though residents still walked across it to get to downtown Bristol.
After crews tore down the old one last year, residents were left without a quick way to get from lower South Street to the heart of town. Rivera said she and her neighbors sometimes opted to ford the river instead of making the long walk along Lovers Lane and Stoney Hill Road.
“It was tough to get across; you literally had to go down into the water and cross to the other side,” she said.
Residents who live to the west of the bridge said they are glad the new bridge is operational.
“I can put my kids in a stroller and walk to town without having to walk all the way around, which takes an hour and 45 minutes,” Rivera said.
Her neighbor Lori Jackson expressed a similar sentiment.
“It makes the walk up to town a lot easier for people that don’t drive,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she used to walk along Stoney Hill Road, which does not have a large shoulder for pedestrian traffic, to get to downtown.
Rivera and Jackson said that while they’re glad the bridge is open, they are concerned that motorists drive too fast by their homes. Rivera estimated that about a dozen children live on that stretch of South Street.
“Speed is going to be a major factor along this road,” Rivera said. “My kids don’t have anywhere to play except the front of the house.”
The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but Rivera said drivers often go much faster.
“You can sit down here for five minutes in the middle of the afternoon and you will watch them come through here at 50 miles an hour,” Rivera said. “We watch them and yell, ‘Slow down, there’s kids!’”
Jackson said that because she lives at the foot of the bridge where the road curves significantly, she’s worried that a motorist will crash into her living room.
“I’m not crazy about the traffic down the hill,” Jackson said. “I fully expect to have at least a car in my yard this winter because of the curve.”
Jackson and Rivera said they hope the town places signs around the bridge to urge motorists to slow down, and added the Bristol Police Department has done a good job of patrolling the area.
Bristol Town Administrator Therese Kirby said the selectboard is aware of speeding issues along South Street. She added that the town, aided by research done by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, is looking into whether to lower the speed limit of the entire downtown.
Bristol paid for just 5 percent of the bridge project, while the state picked up the rest of the tab, Kirby said.

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