On August 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene came ashore along coastal Connecticut, causing severe damage to coastal areas. City of Bridgeport’s Seaside Park sustained severe damage as a result of wave action, flooding and erosion. Included in the park’s devastation was the Al Bennett Fishing Pier as storm surge had caused severe structural damage making the pier unsafe. The pier, located at the westernmost area of Seaside Park at the entrance to Black Rock Harbor, had been dedicated in 1976 as the Albert Bennett Fishing Pier to honor a local fishing enthusiast and editor for the Bridgeport Post newspaper. While the City was awaiting disaster recovery funding approval from FEMA and the State, Superstorm Sandy destroyed what remained of the pier’s superstructure, leaving only the timber piles and pile caps. The design and construction project required compliance with two separate disaster recovery grants and required a 25% matching contribution from the City.
The City retained GZA as one of three on-call coastal engineering firms in 2015. GZA then bid against the other on-call firms and was retained to design and develop FEMA-compliant construction bid plans and specifications for rebuilding of this very popular fishing and pedestrian pier. The FEMA grant required GZA to design the pier to its pre-disaster dimensions and use. The original pier was a 12-foot-wide by 175-foot-long timber pier that was supported on twenty-four 12-inch diameter timber piles. The piles were arranged in twelve 2 pile bents spaced approximately 15’-7” on-centers. As a result of the two storms, most of the structure was destroyed, and GZA determined what remained was unsafe for use. GZA designed a new pier with new foundations and superstructure. A Contractor was selected in 2017 and construction was completed in 2018, requiring costs to be allocated to two separate disaster recovery grants.
The popular facility was fully restored to its original size and function for recreational use by Bridgeport residents, fishing enthusiasts, and visitors.