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Fiery crash on Gold Star Bridge won't impact ongoing renovations, state officials say

Joey Gonzalez of the Aetna Bridge Company descends from working on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Joey Gonzalez of the Aetna Bridge Company descends from working on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge in New London.

A fiery crash that left one person dead and closed the Gold Star bridge for several hours last week won't impact a massive renovation project currently underway on the bridge.

The crash happened on the southbound span, while the $400 million project involves the northbound span. The Gold Star Memorial Bridge, Connecticut’s largest passenger and truck bridge at 6,000 feet in length, has been undergoing a major overhaul.

The 80-year-old stretch of the northbound span over the Thames River has been weakened by corrosion caused by typical wear and tear. But state officials said the bridge is also seeing much heavier loads on its roadways than when the bridge was originally designed.

Currently, crews are working on the center of the roughly mile-long bridge by reinforcing the trusses, those triangles underneath the roadway, said Bart Sweeney, who oversees the bridge division for Connecticut's Department of Transportation.

"We are adding steel plates and adding steel to this structure in very select locations to strengthen it," Sweeney said.

He said the steel plates will allow the bridge to handle heavier loads.

"On the Goldstar, we have multiple different types of support systems that are supporting the deck,” Sweeney said. “We have typical girders, those I-beams that most people refer to, but then we have these deep trusses, what you see in the triangles."

In January, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited New London to announce that $158 million from a new federal infrastructure law was being awarded to accelerate repairs on the northbound span.

Last week officials identified the driver of a fuel truck who died in a fiery crash atop the bridge as Wallace Fauquet III, 42, of Stonington.

State police released the driver's name hours after the crash sent a huge column of black smoke pouring into the sky and closed part of the bridge for hours. Officials soon re-opened the bridge saying the damage wasn’t significant enough to keep it closed to drivers.

Future construction plans on the bridge include work on the bridge's girders and replacing the bridge deck.

The entire project is expected to be finished by 2030.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.

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