STAMFORD — For decades, the city has attempted to solve one of its longest-running problems: what to do with the West Main Street Bridge.
Closed off to cars since 2002, the old Purple Bridge has featured over the years in questions of historic preservation, pedestrian safety and municipal finance with no clear path forward.
While the newly seated board initially sought to encourage Mayor Caroline Simmons to act on the contentious bridge rehabilitation project during its first full board meeting of 2022, the debates quickly became a crash-course in local political history for new representatives, all while rehashing familiar questions over what the best choice is for the West Side and the city as a whole.
After an hour of heated discussions, the board unanimously voted to direct talks on the bridge back to the Operations Committee and gather more information from constituents and the new mayoral administration. Though a bevy of board members, new and old, backed the move, freshman Representatives Bonnie Kim Campbell and Melinda Baxter, both of District 5, spearheaded the effort.
A simmering sense of urgency from many of the representatives complicated the decision to punt the item back to a subcommittee. While many seemed determined to push the resolution forward and solicit input from the new mayor, other board members argued that bringing Simmons down to the committee level would produce a better dialogue between the administration and the board.
Simmons has yet to take a public stance on how the bridge should look going forward but spoke broadly about soliciting more community input during her election campaign. When asked about her position on the bridge, Simmons said in a statement via email that she appreciates “the opportunity to discuss with stakeholders the options for the West Main Street bridge,” and that she looks “forward to moving forward with a plan that addresses this longstanding issue.”
Baxter and Campbell, who together ousted the former longtime city representatives from the West Side, established themselves as fierce advocates for restoring the bridge to its vehicular capacity on the campaign trail and at subcommittee meetings.
While neither Baxter nor Campbell sits on the Operations Committee — the body tasked with overseeing public works — the two delivered impassioned remarks at its last meeting in favor of building back for cars.
“If we don’t get to a place where that bridge is open for vehicular traffic and pedestrians like it was — feet and wheels — there is going to be problems, demonstrations on that bridge and people at the ballot box,” Campbell urged at the Operation Department’s Dec. 20 meeting. Subcommittee members voted overwhelmingly to support restoring the West Main Street Bridge to its original foot and wheeled state, with only Rep. David Watkins, R-1, abstaining.
But as the situation currently stands, creating a pedestrian-only pathway from the West Side into Dowtown with enough room for emergency vehicles …….