by Catherine Shen
NEW BRITAIN – Brilliant lights shone against New Britain’s night sky Thursday night when the city’s new Beehive Bridge lit up for the first time at a dedication ceremony that attracted a large crowd.
The bridge had been deemed “The Impossible Bridge” by many of the key players involved with its design and construction, but the five-year process ultimately became a story of success. Mayor Erin Stewart said to see the bridge finally completed and the crowds coming out to support the city was monumental.
“To build a project of this magnitude was no easy feat,” she said. “It took many, many worker bees to take a dream and make it into a reality. It’s a very humbling feeling.”
The $7.4 million project is part of the city’s Complete Streets Master Plan, with roughly $2 million of the money coming from the city and over $5 million from state and federal grants. The master plan is aimed at creating a better-connected and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly downtown, as well as infrastructure that eases traffic.
Since the bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the city’s downtown, the Little Poland neighborhood and New Brite Plaza and nearby businesses, the renovations became a priority for the city. The bridge is also a nod to the city’s seal, which features a beehive, bees, and a motto that translates from Latin as “Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey.”
Pete Rappoccio, owner and founder of Sign Pro and one of the many collaborators for the project, said it was a surreal and emotional moment to see the bridge come into being.
“Things are never impossible in New Britain,” he said. “Now every time I turn that corner and drive onto the bridge, I smile and I cry. I love this city and if there’s anything I can do to help it, I will do it.”
The structure is eye-catching and inspired by the flight and dance of the honeybee. The railing’s diamond-shaped metal frames are infilled with translucent polycarbonate panels in golden hues, reminiscent of a honeycomb. Four bee sculptures bookend the bridge and at night, they glow with internal LED illumination. Another beehive sculpture, a tribute to New Britain’s city seal, anchors the center of the bridge.
Marissa Mead, director of art for Svigals + Partners, which designed the railings and several sculptures, said it was very satisfying to see what they have been imagining in their minds turning into something real.
“It feels amazing seeing all the people here admiring the final product,” she said.
Renovations were not just limited to the design elements that mimic a beehive, the project also involved a long list of street improvements, including widening the sidewalks from 8 feet to 20 feet for better pedestrian access, decorative streetscape elements, art features, and the creation of two pocket parks on the north side of the bridge.
In addition to the façade improvements, the project also replaced the railroad crossing at the Columbus Boulevard intersection and the traffic signals on East Main Street. The intersection of East Main Street went through reconstruction and the sidewalks from Main Street to Lafayette Street were replaced.
Mark Moriarty, the city’s director of public works, took a moment to thank all those who were involved with the project.
“We really did the impossible and I can’t overstress how people really stepped up to meet challenges in order to make the bridge happen,” he said. “It was a risky project because it was different, but we did it.”
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