Norwalk road over Keelers Brook closed indefinitely

NORWALK — The roadway over Keelers Brook on Rowayton Avenue will remain closed for the foreseeable future as the city works to repair the deteriorated roadway likely damaged by Tropical Storm Elsa.

Additional detour signage and concrete barriers were placed around the bridge Tuesday morning at the intersection of Rowayton Avenue and Woodchuck Lane following reported deterioration of the bridge deck, city spokesperson Josh Morgan said.

A more permanent detour will be in place by Friday, with additional signage indicating the detour route to remain for about three months. The detour will take drivers along Woodchuck Lane, between Flax Hill Road and Rowayton Avenue.

A city consulting firm was called in to assess the bridge’s damage over the weekend. The the report is not yet ready, but Morgan said, “Preliminary findings indicate the damage is highly likely the result of Tropical Storm Elsa.”

The tropical storm swept through Norwalk earlier this month, bringing about 6 inches of rain within 24 hours.

The deterioration over a portion of the roadway was first brought to the city’s attention Wednesday morning by a resident, according to Morgan. The resident called the city’s customer service line who dispatched the Department of Public Works engineering team to the area.

“This bridge was built in the 1900s, and reconstructed in 1966,” Morgan said. “It was last inspected in April 2019 deemed to be in fair condition with no significant structural issues found.”

It is a short-span bridge of less than 20 feet, with a stone arch and corrugated metal pipe drainage culvert that carries Rowayton Avenue over Keelers Brook, he added.

“What we believed happened was heavy rains caused excessively high flow and water levels within Keelers Brook, and that high water velocity washed out the stone foundation of the arch culvert,” Morgan said. “The removal of that material caused the bridge to settle, which damaged the road above.”

A contractor will be hired to perform the emergency repairs.

Rowayton resident Dan Verel, who lives just south of the Rowayton Metro-North station, said he travels the road over the Keelers Brook watercourse almost daily.

“Almost every day I either run errands in that area or drive for work,” said Verel, who works for Greib’s Pharmacy in Darien. “I constantly drive in Rowayton, that part of South Norwalk, through Darien, New Canaan and Stamford, so it is an issue.”

However, Verel said he understands the need to close the road for the next few months.

“It’s better to be cautious and drive over a road without collapsing into the brook,” he said.

One thing that worries Verel is new development in Norwalk and the subsequent the removal of trees along the waterways, which he believes contributes to the local flooding.

“The storm from two weeks ago on Friday was the absolute worst, and it’s a major problem near McKendry Court off of Rowayton Avenue down-stream from Keeler Brook, with houses getting decimated by flooding,” Verel said. “It was the worst in my lifetime. Also, climate change is basically happening as we speak.”

Kristina Kehle Ozon, an educator working at Brookside Elementary School this summer, said the traffic caused by the road closure made her late to work Friday. For the remainder of last week and beginning of this week, Kehle Ozon, who lives near Strawberry Hill, shifted her morning routine to adapt to the traffic.

“All last week I had to accommodate,” Kehle Ozon said. “Yesterday was much better, but I don’t want to say too much because tomorrow will be another day.”

While Morgan said nothing like the road deterioration has occurred previously over the watercourse, the Keelers Brook area is prone to flooding.

The Keeler Avenue watercourse was recently cleaned of sediment as part of a mass sediment removal for six watercourses in the city, conducted in the hopes of reducing flooding in those areas.

And in 2015, the city began the process of acquiring a Rowayton Avenue property on the west side of the brook to conduct the Keelers Brook flood mitigation project.

The project called for widening, reshaping and realigning 350 feet of the channel that is formed by Keelers Brook, and was part of a larger $9 million effort to alleviate flooding along Keelers Brook, Transportation, Mobility and Parking Principal Engineer Michael Yeosock said at the time.

abigail.brone@hearstmediact.com