by Stephen Dunn
With music, food trucks, two beer tents and a festive atmosphere, several hundred people Thursday night celebrated completion of New Britain’s biggest public works project in years.
Traffic was shut down on the new Beehive Bridge for two hours so people could examine the towering metal sculptures of bees and the honeycomb-themed translucent panels along the sides.
The crowd applauded enthusiastically when the city unveiled a 10-foot high beehive sculpture in the center of the span, and the new variable-color lighting that runs along both sides.
“The colors are pretty. I liked the lights, the bees and the beehive matched,” second-grader Roniya Naveed said afterward.
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She got to see the bridge-lighting celebration with her father, Malik Naveed, who took a break from his Pizza Corner business in Little Poland to enjoy the festivities. He proclaimed the refurbished span over Route 72 an attractive success.
The $7.4 million project was the part of the city’s Complete Streets drive to create a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly downtown while reducing speeding. The bridge is the main connector between downtown and Little Poland as well as the New Brite Plaza business district.
Mayor Erin Stewart said designing an attention-grabbing bridge with benches, wide sidewalks, attractive lights and bike lanes was part of rebuilding the connection that was broken when Route 72 was built through the city decades ago.
“Where we’re standing today is above the highway that opened our city to the rest of the state but sacrificed our Main Street business district,” she told the crowd. “We became truly a tale of two cities.”
When the state transportation department ready to rehabilitate the bridge, Stewart asked for help in securing state and federal monies to do more than simple repainting and repaving.
“I made my statement: you guys are the ones who ruined it, so now I’m asking you to help me fix it. To their credit, they did — they came through big time,” Stewart said.
Public Works Director Mark Moriarty said the project may prove to be the best thing he’ll do in his career. When the first bids came in about $2 million over estimate, city engineers and private contractors managed to retain the design but steeply reduce costs, he said. Moriarty praised designer Ted DeSantos of Fuss & O’Neill and Peter Rappoccio, owner of Sign Pro, which constructed the artwork.
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