Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, more commonly referred to as the Q Bridge (the "Q" referring to "Quinnipiac") by locals, is a bridge that carries Interstate 95 (Connecticut Turnpike) over the mouth of the Quinnipiac River in New Haven, Connecticut. The 1,300 m (0.8 mi) span – which opened in 1958 – is a girder and floorbeam design where steel beams support the concrete bridge deck. The bridge carries 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.

The Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge will be replaced by a $554 million 10-lane extradosed bridge. Since the Gibbs Street Bridge in Portland Oregon was redesigned from an extradosed span to a box girder bridge, the Pearl Harbor Memorial bridge is on track to the be first extradosed bridge in the United States when it fully opens in 2016. The new bridge is the centerpiece of a $3 billion megaproject to reconstruct and widen 13 miles (21 km) of I-95 between West Haven and Branford.


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. The land acquisition and construction cut through many neighborhoods, including Italian and Jewish ones. By 1993 the Quinnipiac River bridge was considered outdated, and traffic bottlenecks had been a chronic problem over the Q bridge.

Signature span replacement
Bridge plans bring controversy

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

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. 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

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. 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. 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 build a $32 million replica of the Yale Boathouse at Long Wharf Park. 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.

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.

Staged construction

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

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.

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 will eventually 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 will involve building the bridges that will carry the new ramps to I-91, while Contract E will complete the remainder of the interchange ramps, bridges, and new Turnpike mainline roadways. Walsh Construction Company, based in Sharon, Massachusetts, will construct Contract E-2, a $90 million contract to build the flyover bridge for the I-95/I-91 Interchange to Route 34 and add a transition lane for the new ramp to the I-95 mainline through Long Wharf.

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.

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. The contract was awarded to a joint venture between the Middlesex Company and Pittsfield, Maine-based Cianbro Corporation in April 2008.

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.

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 planning to replace 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 will begin when funding is secured.

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 will be built

The new Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge will be built in three stages. The first half of the new bridge will be built alongside and to the south of the existing bridge. This span will eventually carry the northbound lanes of I-95 once the entire project is complete. Once the first half is complete in 2013, it will carry three travel lanes in each direction while the existing bridge is demolished and the remaining half of the new span is built. Once complete, the southbound lanes will be shifted to the second span and the bridge will be opened to 5 lanes in each direction. 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.

Financing the new bridge

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.