Major construction begins on Route 44 in Norfolk

Slope being cleared of trees at the junction of Route 44 and Old Colony Road in Norfolk as part of CT DOT Project 97-95

Jennifer Almquist

Major construction begins on Route 44 in Norfolk

NORFOLK — For the next five years, travel on Route 44 will be reduced to one lane in Norfolk, also known as Greenwoods Road West, for the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) to replace existing retaining walls and stabilize the slope along the north side of the road for the safety of the highway.

Last week, DOT Project 97-95, as the extensive undertaking is called, was green lit to begin. Over time the stone retaining walls along the roadway have bulged from the pressure exerted by the angle of the slope and years of heavy rains. In 2010 a mudslide occurred in the affected section of highway which extends from just west of Memorial Green to east of Old Colony Road. In 2019 DOT installed temporary concrete bin blocks, or Mafia barriers (so-called because cement production of them used to be controlled by the mob), along the base of the existing walls due to their movement.

Amy Hare, head engineer for Project 97-95, emphasized the level of preliminary work necessary. Already one family has had to relocate, and their hillside home was just razed. Currently, the town’s water company, Aquarion, is analyzing and relocation of underground water pipes from that section of highway.

Next, Eversource will remove and reconfigure all affected utility poles. Many trees need to be cleared on the slope and on Old Colony Road. The entire site was surveyed. To stabilize the slope during excavation, timber lagging (involves wiring series of wooden slats together to form a blanket) followed by soil anchors will be driven into the hillside to create a supporting wall. Mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) held by metal straps will also be used. Stones removed from the old walls will be available for use by the Town of Norfolk.

The Renkert family, who lost their home, said that they were approached 10 years ago by the state about the need for this construction project. They were sad to leave Norfolk after having raised their children in that home for 19 years and having put considerable work into its renovation.

Mrs. Renkert noted that “the guys from the state were compassionate — really terrific — businesslike, responsive and professional.” The Renkerts say that they were fairly compensated by the state and are comfortable in their new home.

While many adjacent areas will be affected by the construction, DOT is exercising caution to avoid disrupting the cemetery on Old Colony Road. Established in 1757, Norfolk’s historic Center Cemetery is located on the ridge above the unstable slope. Care has been taken to ensure that the integrity of the sacred space will not be violated. Working closely with cemetery officials, project planners established strict protocols to protect the graves and historic markers. Work vehicles entering the cemetery must fit between the two stone gate markers. Radar will be used to establish gravesites. Vulnerable areas will be clearly marked, and a temporary alternate access road will be built. All work will stop when there is a funeral. During the construction process, the public will continue to have access to all burial areas.

Traffic flow on Route 44 is already feeling the impact of the work. One lane will always be kept open wide enough for trucks to pass. An alternate 45-minute detour truck route was devised to move traffic south on 272 (near the Norfolk Library), to Route 4 to Goshen, to Route 63, then looping back up Route 7 to Canaan. Large interstate truckers can either use the suggested detour or go north to use the Mass Pike. For the smaller, local trucking companies the impact will be more severe. Delays that cut down the number of daily runs they can drive will affect their bottom line, according to the folks at George’s Garage in Norfolk. It is too early to fully predict the degree to which travel will be affected. Temporary illumination will be in place for night traffic.

When Project 97-95 is complete, the map area designated as Site #1 will have a retaining wall 1,030-feet-long, 30 to 42-feet-tall, with decorative fencing along the top. Site #2 will have a retaining wall approximately 490 feet long and will be 6-19 feet tall. The current steep slope of 1:1 (45 degrees) will be reduced to 2:1 (27 degrees). The multiple drainage systems along Route 44 that discharge directly into Blackberry River will be reconstructed and consolidated.

The improved highway will have 12-foot-wide lanes. Carving back the banks for the walls will create a wider roadway. Existing narrow shoulders will be widened to five feet allowing for a safer bicycle route. Route 44 is part of the statewide bicycling network.

The retaining walls will be made of segmented pre-cast concrete panels with an architectural “natural stone” finish to be selected by the town of Norfolk. Turf replacement using conservation grass seeds, and small plantings (to retain sightlines) will be established, following environmental and native-species guidelines.

The estimated cost of Project 97-95 is $24 million, with 80% coming from federal funds, and 20% from state funds. While Norfolk will not have to pay directly for the project, the indirect cost and inconvenience will be significant.

Norfolk First Selectman Matt Riiska acknowledged both the cost and the need, “This project has been discussed for a long time. The amount of planning and coordination has been the Department of Transportation’s focus for many years. We have neglected our infrastructure for far too long. Unfortunately, it is going to be another disruptive project for the residents in Norfolk, but these things must be done.”

Salvatore Aresco is the Project Manager for CT DOT Project 97-95.

Latest News

Mountaineers compete in state track meet

Kyle McCarron led the pack through three laps in the boys 1600-meter race at the Class S state meet, May 29.

Riley Klein

NEW BRITAIN — Housatonic Valley Regional High School had eight athletes compete in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class S track and field championship May 29.

HVRHS made its mark throughout the long day of competitions at Willow Brook Park. The meet saw several Mountaineers set new personal records (PR) and two podiumed, qualifying for the State Open meet Monday, June 3.

Keep ReadingShow less
Rising demand for home elevators

Ray and Eve Pech inside their Sevaria home elevator, which was recently installed as part of a larger renovation project.

Debra A. Aleksinas

Ray and Eve Pech were in their late 30’s when they built their dream house 40 years ago on the side of a mountain overlooking Ski Sundown.

The modest, 2,000-square-foot, vertically-designed home offered privacy, ample space for their young family, stunning scenery — and stairs galore.

Keep ReadingShow less
Summer series triumphs at Music Mountain

Benjamin Hochman and Friends opened the 2023 Music Mountain summer series at Gordon Hall.

Anne Daily

Music Mountain in Falls Village is set to begin its 95th season on June 2.

The summer will open with a benefit concert and reception featuring pianist Benjamin Hochman and Friends from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Espina Ruiz, the festival promises a season rich with transformative musical experiences.

Keep ReadingShow less