Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (Connecticut)

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Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge
Q Bridge, August 2015.jpg
The nearly-complete bridge in August 2015
Carries Ten lanes of I-95 / Conn. Turnpike
Crosses Quinnipiac River
Locale New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.
Maintained by Connecticut Department of Transportation
Design Extradosed bridge
Total length 1,443.2 metres (4,735 ft)
Width 55.4 metres (182 ft)
Height 45.7 metres (150 ft)
Longest span 157.0 metres (515.1 ft)
Clearance below 18.3 metres (60 ft)
Opened 1958 (original span) reconstructed 2005-2015

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, more commonly referred to as the Q Bridge by locals, is an extradosed bridge that carries Interstate 95 (Connecticut Turnpike) over the mouth of the Quinnipiac River in New Haven, in the U.S. state of Connecticut. [1] The original 1,300 m (0.8 mi) span – which opened on January 2, 1958 – was a girder and floorbeam design where steel beams support the concrete bridge deck. The bridge carried three lanes of traffic in each direction with no inside or outside shoulders. The bridge was officially dedicated as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in 1995 to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor.[2]

The old Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge was replaced by a $554 million 10-lane extradosed bridge; the northbound span of which opened to traffic on June 22, 2012. Southbound traffic was shifted onto the new bridge, sharing the northbound span with northbound traffic until the new southbound span was completed in late 2015. Since the Gibbs Street Bridge in Portland, Oregon was redesigned from an extradosed span to a box girder bridge, the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge was the first extradosed bridge completed in the United States when it fully opened in September 2015.[3] The new bridge is the centerpiece of a $2 billion megaproject to reconstruct and widen 13 miles (21 km) of I-95 between West Haven and Branford, called the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Improvement Program.


(Old) Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge
Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (Connecticut).jpg
Q Bridge with the Tomlinson Lift Bridge behind it
Coordinates 41°17′55″N 72°54′14″W / 41.29861°N 72.90389°W / 41.29861; -72.90389Coordinates: 41°17′55″N 72°54′14″W / 41.29861°N 72.90389°W / 41.29861; -72.90389
Carries Six lanes of I-95 / Conn. Turnpike
Crosses Quinnipiac River
Locale New Haven, Connecticut
Maintained by Connecticut Department of Transportation
Design Girder and floorbeam
Total length 1,443.2 metres (4,735 ft)
Width 25.6 metres (84 ft)
Clearance below 18.3 metres (60 ft)
Opened January 2, 1958 (Reconstructed 2005-2015)
Closed July 26, 2013
Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (Connecticut) is located in Connecticut
Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (Connecticut)

This bridge was created as part of a project to build the Connecticut Turnpike, a toll road stretching from Greenwich to Killingly in the 1950s. By 1993 the Quinnipiac River bridge was considered outdated, and traffic bottlenecks had been a chronic problem over the Q bridge.[4]

Signature span replacement[edit]

Bridge plans bring controversy[edit]

The existing Q-Bridge opened with a design capacity of 90,000 vehicles per day (VPD), but as of 2006 more than 150,000 vehicles cross the span daily. In 1989 the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CONNDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) initiated a study to improve I-95 between Branford and West Haven, including replacing the existing Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. The study that included the replacement of the Q-Bridge accounts for seven miles (12 km) of the Connecticut Turnpike from the I-91/Route 34 interchange in New Haven to Cedar Street in Branford. The remaining 6 miles (10 km) of the corridor from the I-91/Route 34 interchange to Route 162 (Sawmill Road) will be rebuilt as three separate projects with their own EISs.

In 1992, the FHWA and CONNDOT released the draft environmental impact statement, which presented a number of alternatives to improve eastern seven miles (12 km) of the 13-mile (22 km) corridor:

  • Ten-lane bridge; eight lanes to Branford
  • Eight-lane bridge; six lanes to Branford with a light-rail line (utilizing the median of I-95) from New Haven Union Station to Branford.
  • Construction of a new bridge parallel to the existing bridge, which would carry four northbound lanes of the Connecticut Turnpike; the existing bridge would then be rehabilitated and reconfigured to carry four lanes of southbound traffic.

All of the corridor alternatives presented in the 1992 DEIS were subsequently rejected by local officials, mass-transit advocates, business organizations, and environmental groups.

Returning to the drawing board[edit]

In response to the controversy over the design of the new bridge, CONNDOT organized the Intermodal Concept Development Committee (ICDC), which included representatives from New Haven, East Haven, and Branford, environmental groups, local business associations, the FHWA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Coast Guard.

The ICDC examined over 100 alternatives before narrowing the list to seven in the Supplemental DEIS, presented in April 1997. The final EIS was issued in March 1999, which called for a 10-lane Q-Bridge; eight lanes to East Haven and six lanes to Branford, and a new Metro-North/Shore Line East train station at State Street in New Haven. The FHWA issued a Record of Decision, approving the FEIS in August 1999.[5] CONNDOT is preparing two separate studies to reconstruct the remainder of the corridor through the Long Wharf section of New Haven and West Haven.

In 2001, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. pressed CONNDOT and the FHWA to design the new Q-Bridge as a signature span. A cable-stayed design was originally considered, but the Federal Aviation Administration raised concerns over the height of the towers interfering with the approach into Tweed-New Haven Airport compelled CONNDOT to consider an extradosed bridge, which retains the aesthetic qualities of a cable-stayed structure, with shorter towers.

Construction on the eastern approach to the bridge in Branford and East Haven began in 2001; while work began in 2004 on the earthworks for the western approach around the I-91/Route 34 interchange. The United Illuminating Company erected new pylons and rerouted its 115 kilovolt transmission lines away from the bridge in 2003, to make way for the larger bridge to be built.

More construction delays[edit]

Construction on the bridge itself was originally set to begin in 2005 and be completed in 2012. However, two historically significant structures—the former Yale Boathouse and the Fitch Foundry—sat directly in the path of the new bridge. The City of New Haven demanded that these two structures be preserved.[6] Mayor DeStefano further argued that CONNDOT should include the expansion of I-95 through Long Wharf and West Haven into the overall plan instead of pursuing these projects separately. Given the impasse between CONNDOT and the City of New Haven over these two issues, the FHWA threatened to pull funding for the project unless the city and state could come to a consensus on how to proceed while keeping the project's costs under control.[7][8] Realizing that such a move would effectively void the already-approved EIS and require a new one to be developed, CONNDOT and the city of New Haven made a compromise in late 2005 that called for CONNDOT to provide $30 million in funding for a new Yale Boathouse on Long Wharf that would incorporate historical similarities (and actual structures) from the old boathouse. In exchange, the City of New Haven agreed to allow CONNDOT to continue the environmental and design studies on the Long Wharf and West Haven sections apart from the I-91/Route 34 to Branford segment of I-95 that includes the Q-Bridge.[9]

The project was let to bid in May 2006, but there were no bids received by the December 27, 2006 deadline. Two construction firms interested in the project cited—among other things—the absence of an escalator clause in the project contract to cover the rising cost of fuel and raw materials for the lack of bids.[10]

Staged construction[edit]

Construction of the new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (Q-Bridge) as viewed from the Tomlinson Bridge in 2011

In response, CONNDOT divided the bridge project into multiple contracts that were let in stages as construction progresses. While this makes the project more manageable for contractors and highway officials, this approach significantly added to the time required to complete the new bridge.

Eastern approach[edit]

The eastern approach to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge was reconstructed and widened through two contracts, officially referred to as Contracts C1 and C2 at a total cost of $120 million. Contract C1 reconstructed the eastern approach from Lake Saltonstall through East Haven, while Contract C2 reconstructed I-95 from the East Haven/New Haven border to the eastern abutment of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. O & G Industries of Torrington, Connecticut was the primary contractor for both contracts. While a train accident, harsh weather, and several design changes delayed the completion of Contract C1 by more than a year, O & G Industries completed Contract C2 in August 2008, one year ahead of schedule. Further east, a third contract officially referred to as Contract D, reconstructed and widened I-95 from the Lake Saltonstall bridge to Exit 54 in Branford. Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based Middlesex Company was the prime contractor for the $36 million contract. Aside from resurfacing and restriping from two to three lanes, no physical construction was performed on the I-95 bridge over Lake Saltonstall as it was rebuilt and widened in 1995.

Western approach and I-91/Route 34 interchange[edit]

Reconstructing the western approach to the bridge has been divided into several contracts: E, E1 and E2. The first of which, Contract E1 was completed in late 2006. Contract E1 involved the construction of earthworks that support the western abutment of the new bridge and carry the new ramps to I-91 and Route 34. L.G. DeFelice Construction was originally awarded the $14 million contract, but the company went out of business midway through the project. The contract was picked up and completed by Hallberg Construction in 2006. Contract E2 involved building the flyover bridge that carries the new ramp from I-95 northbound to Route 34 and added a transition lane to I-95 in each direction through Long Wharf. This contract was completed on June 6, 2011 by Walsh Construction Company of Canton, Massachusetts at a cost of $90 million. Contract E will complete the remainder of the interchange ramps, bridges, and new Turnpike mainline roadways.

Removal of buildings and relocating sewer lines[edit]

The first bridge contract, which includes the demolition of buildings where the new bridge will stand, was let in October 2006. Work under this contract was completed in August 2007 with the demolition of the Yale Boathouse and the Fitch Foundry where the west abutment of the new bridge will be.

A second contract was let on June 1, 2007, to relocate two 42-inch (1.06 meter) diameter sanitary sewer lines that lie directly beneath where part of the new bridge will be built. Construction of the new sewer lines involved slant drilling through bedrock under New Haven Harbor. The Middlesex Company, a construction contractor based in Littleton, Massachusetts, was the prime contractor on the $20 million project.[11]

Building the abutments and pier foundations[edit]

The third contract, known as Contract B1 in official documents, which covers construction of the bridge abutments and pier foundations for the northbound lanes was let on October 31, 2007. Four construction firms submitted bids for this $137 million contract February 6, 2008, according to bid results from CONNDOT.[12] The contract was awarded to a joint venture between the Middlesex Company and Pittsfield, Maine-based Cianbro Corporation in April 2008.

Completing the new bridge and removing the original span[edit]

The final contract, known as Contract B, will construct the remainder of the new bridge and demolish the existing span. Contract B was awarded to a joint venture between Walsh Construction of Chicago, Illinois and Denver, Colorado-based PCL Constructors for $417 million in July 2009. The joint venture company is also known as Walsh-PCL Joint Venture II.

West Haven to I-91/Route 34[edit]

Three separate projects will reconstruct and widen I-95 from I-91/Route 34 to Route 162 in West Haven. Reconstruction of I-95 from the West River to I-91/Route 34 including the stretch through Long Wharf is in the EIS phase. Current work on the Long Wharf section is required to enable a smooth transition from the existing 3-lane I-95 cross-section to the west into the new I-91/Route 34 interchange. Future work on the Long Wharf section would add travel lanes beyond the transition into the I-91/Route 34 interchange. Alternatives discussed in the Draft EIS included either elevating I-95 onto a viaduct or submerging the highway underground through tunnels, similar to Boston's Big Dig. Depending on the alternative selected, cost estimates for reconstructing the Long Wharf section of I-95 range from $200 million to $500 million.

To the west of Long Wharf, CONNDOT is replacing the aging bridge over the West River and Route 10 with a wider structure. Part of this reconstruction effort will be consolidating Exits 44 and 45 into a single interchange. Construction on the $200 million bridge began in November 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2018. Construction of the new West River Bridge is occurring in a three-stage project similar to the reconstruction of the Moses Wheeler Bridge further west in Stratford. The first stage involving construction of the new northbound lanes was completed in the summer of 2015. The second stage involved shifting northbound traffic onto the new northbound span and shifting southbound traffic onto the former northbound lanes of the original bridge so the old southbound lanes could be demolished to make way for the new southbound lanes. That stage was completed in the summer of 2016, with southbound traffic shifted to the new southbound structure and the original bridge taken out of service. The final stage involves removal of the remaining original bridge and completing the center portion of the new bridge, scheduled for completion in late 2017 or early 2018.

The section of I-95 from Route 162 in West Haven to the West River features three narrow lanes with no shoulders, and has been the site of chronic congestion and numerous accidents. To address these issues, CONNDOT plans to reconstruct this section of roadway to three (expandable to four) lanes with full left and right shoulders, which will match the roadway profiles at either end of the segment. Construction is contingent upon funding.

How the new bridge was built[edit]

The new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge was built in three stages. The first half of the new bridge was built alongside and to the south of the existing bridge. This span now carries northbound lanes of I-95. On June 25, 2012, the new northbound bridge was opened, and carried three travel lanes in each direction while the old bridge was demolished and the remaining half of the new span was built.[13] Once the southbound span was complete, the southbound lanes were shifted to the second span. Currently each span carries three lanes in each direction, pending completion of construction of the I-91/Route 34 interchange immediately to the west. Adding to the challenge of building the new bridge is that work must be coordinated with the ongoing reconstruction of the massive I-91/Route 34 interchange just west of the bridge. As a result, completion of the project is now scheduled for 2016, four years later than originally planned, although this might change as the southern half was opened six months early.

Financing the new bridge[edit]

When the EIS for rebuilding I-95 between the I-91/Route 34 interchange and Exit 54 in Branford was issued in 1997, the project's cost was projected at $800 million. Of that, replacement of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge was estimated to be $360 million. Early on in the EIS process, officials considered placing a toll plaza at the east end of the bridge. The toll option would have had cars paying $4.00 to cross the bridge. Officials scrapped toll plans due to widespread opposition and legislation banning the placement of tolls on Connecticut highways. When the project's costs were reassessed in 2007, the bridge's construction cost has skyrocketed to beyond $500 million, and the total cost for rebuilding I-95 from New Haven to Branford was increased to $1.36 billion. Some officials estimate that rebuilding the seven-mile turnpike segment will balloon to over $2 billion by the time construction is completed in 2016. Regardless, construction will be financed with 90% federal funds and 10% state and local funds.

Northbound span[edit]

The Northbound section of the bridge opened to three lanes of traffic on June 25, 2012, after being completed 6 months ahead of schedule.[14] On July 26, 2013, southbound traffic was shifted from the original bridge over to the new northbound span. The northbound span will carry three lanes of both northbound and southbound traffic while the original bridge is demolished, and the new southbound span is built.

Southbound span[edit]

On July 17, 2015, construction workers held a barbecue lunch on the southern span of the new bridge to celebrate its completion. Officials expect the new southern span to partially open, with an off-ramp to I-91 northbound in September 2015, and to fully open with complete access ramps by mid-2016. [15]

As of July 2016, construction on the new bridge is complete, with all ten lanes (six continuous and four ramp lanes) completely open. Construction on the I-95/I-91/CT-34 interchange at the west end of the bridge is nearly complete, with all new ramps opened, and vegetation and drainage expected to be completed by the end of 2016.


The bridge was named the Grand Prize winner of AASHTO's 2016 America's Transportation Awards, prevailing over 83 other entries from state DOTs nationwide.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge Factsheet, Accessed March 10, 2010" (PDF). Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Connecticut General Assembly Public Act No. 95-325". Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Welcome to the Gibbs Street Pedestrian Bridge Website!". Gibbs Street Bridge. Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  4. ^ MILLER, JULIE (September 5, 1993). "State Seeks to Open a Bottleneck". The New York Times. New York, New York: The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Improvement Program History
  6. ^ Future of Yale Boathouse, bridge development in question, WTNH TV Channel 8, November 15, 2004
  7. ^ New Haven trying to get agreement on Q-Bridge project, WTNH TV Channel 8, November 9, 2005
  8. ^ Feds may halt Q-bridge rehab Highway administration unhappy with cost overruns, New Haven Register, October 27, 2005
  9. ^ Q bridge meeting is productive, New Haven Register, November 10, 2005
  10. ^ Q-Bridge Construction, WTNH TV Channel 8, February 26, 2007
  11. ^ Department of Transportation. "CONNDOT Bids and RFPs". Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  12. ^ Department of Transportation (August 9, 2011). "CONNDOT Projects Scheduled for Advertising". Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  13. ^ Robbins, Rebecca D. (June 21, 2012). "New Haven Highway Traffic Could Come To Crawl This Weekend". The Hartford Courant. Hartford, Connecticut. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Transportation Projects in Connecticut and Florida Win Top National Awards". America's Transportation Awards. Retrieved 22 January 2017. 
  17. ^ "Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge Project Receives Grand Prize in 2016 America's Transportation Awards Competition". WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff. Retrieved 20 January 2017. 

External links[edit]