Mar 11, 2014
Kevin Spacey, 'House of Cards' and How a Bridge Over Long Island Sound Almost Became a Reality
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the special screening of Netflix's 'House of Cards' Season 2 at the Directors Guild of America on Feb. 13, 2014 in Los Angeles.
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The writers of “House of Cards” might be onto something.
In Season 2 of the hit Netflix series, a proposal for a bridge across Long Island Sound comes up again and again. The fictional project calls for a bridge from Port Jefferson, N.Y., to Milford, Conn., and the idea is at the center of the jobs growth plan put forth on the show by Vice President Francis Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) and President Garrett Walker (Michael Gill).
During the course of the season, which was released in its entirety on Netflix Streaming in February, Underwood uses the contract for the bridge as a bargaining chip in order to consolidate his own power and influence.
Some have criticized the show for unrealistic plot lines, and at first glance a bridge over Long Island Sound seems as unlikely as anything in the show’s second season. However, a bridge over the Sound is not all that far-fetched, and in fact, just such a project very nearly became a reality.
During the '60s and '70s, plans for a bridge that would have linked Bridgeport, Groton, Old Saybrook or another town to Long Island had serious traction. The idea generated public hearings in Connecticut and New York and was championed by a succession of New York power brokers, including New York governors Nelson Rockefeller and Hugh Carey, and famed New York builder Robert Moses, a New Haven native who helped plan projects such as New York City’s Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (previously the Triborough Bridge).
Far from a flight of fancy, the idea for a bridge over the Sound was a serious proposal that was viewed as entirely feasible from an engineering standpoint. The concept’s feasibility was demonstrated in April 1964 when the 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was opened. Built over a three and a half year period, it cost $200 million and the lives of six workers, and connects the Delmarva Peninsula with Virginia Beach. (Above a map of all the suggested bridges over Long Island Sound from a Wikipedia post on the 'Long Island Sound link'.)
Supporters of the bridge in New York used the slogan “a bridge is a Sound idea,” but as far as many in Connecticut were concerned, the plan didn’t hold water.
The last major push for the project took place in 1979 when New York Governor Carey proposed a tri-state advisory committee to review proposals for a bridge across the Sound. The committee looked at a possible routes for the bridge, one from East Marion, N.Y., to Old Saybrook (which would have been about 8 miles), and a longer route from Riverhead, N.Y., to Guilford.
“There was a very sincere and ambitious proposal to build a bridge,” recalls Barbara Maynard, who was first selectwoman of Old Saybrook at the time.
If built, it would have been a bridge over troubled waters, or at least troubled townspeople.
“There wasn't much enthusiasm on this end I’ll tell you,” Maynard says. “It would have really wrecked our town. We have miles of coastline and pristine beaches and that would have completely changed the whole environment around us.”
Maynard and others in Old Saybrook rallied against the plan. As a result of this resistance, as well as economic concerns, the concept was dropped.
But Maynard wasn’t the first Connecticut politician to battle plans for a bridge across the Sound.
The idea of a bridge across the Sound was explored as early as 1957 by the Montauk Beach Company. In 1963 a private organization called the Long Island Sound Tri-State Bridge Committee formed. This committee proposed a 23.8-mile bridge that would have started at Orient Point in Long Island then branched into separate spans; one would have gone to Groton, the other to Watch Hill, R.I.