Growing up in New Canaan, the prevailing attitude towards Wilton (other than making fun of the fact that it was one of Connecticut’s two “dry” towns) is similar to attitude that present-day Wiltonians have towards Redding: Yeah, it seems like a nice enough place, you may know one or two people there, but there’s no real reason to ever go there. I mean, what do they have that we don’t have? (Except we pay more for ours!)
But I know for a fact that there are plenty of New Canaan natives now living in Wilton, including at least three from my high school class, as well as many others in the classes that preceded mine and those that followed. Full disclosure here: I am a non-resident New Canaan property owner – meaning I still have to pay taxes, but don’t get the perks of those who reside in the vaunted 06840 zip code. (That’s taxation without representation, but not the point of this particular blog.)
But what I’m talking about is a bridge. Not just any bridge, but a very old railroad bridge actually; one that commuters from New Canaan into Manhattan pass over twice daily. (The New Canaan Branch is a one-track, two-station dead end branch that originates in Stamford.) It’s an antiquated structure that crosses over Route 106, close to where New Canaan, Darien and Stamford converge.
The bridge itself is hardly an aesthetic marvel; it’s a rusty, steel girder and floorbeam system design (that’s for all you engineering geeks out there) that provides less than 12 feet of vertical clearance for vehicles to pass beneath. In addition, to prove its age, it has been covered with the same footprint and bong graffiti that’s been in place since at least the late 1960s. (Some preservation society must keep renewing the original graffiti on it, because it always seems to look pretty fresh.)
In fact, it has its own Webpage; it’s entry number 1073307 on uglybridges.com. (Who knew there was such a Website?) It’s also the scene of many traffic mishaps — often hilarious, and hardly a year goes by that some over height vehicle doesn’t get its top sheared off, despite an electronic warning system that rivals Ronald Reagan’s “star wars” missile defense system. These accidents have prompted many “replace the bridge” meetings and proposals over the years - but despite all of attempts to upgrade, nothing is done about removing or replacing it.
But why? What’s the real reason an ugly, low, narrow railroad bridge has remained intact for over a century in a region that can certainly afford a replacement while many newer bridges are on their third incarnation? Simply put, its height (or lack thereof) is what keeps this relic standing; because the bridge crosses over State Route 106, it prohibits large trucks from shortcutting the I-95>Route 7>Route 84 corridor via Route 106, a natural passage that would send eighteen wheelers rumbling through New Canaan (and eventually through residential neighborhoods in Wilton) bound for Route 7 or back the other way. (Instead, it sends them barreling up Route 8, so our loss is Naugatuck’s gain.)
So next time you’re driving on Route 7 and don’t have to grant right-of-way to a tandem tractor-trailer or there's no eighteen wheeler swerving to avoid hitting your children while they’re riding their bikes in town, please don’t forget to celebrate all things New Canaan for its selfless contribution for adding to the quality of life here. Because in this case, what’s good for New Canaan is good for Wilton.
Spoken like a true taxpayer in both towns.