A mystery bridge where I-91 and a real bridge, the Charter Oak, meet in Hartford is today's entry in this edition of "Is It Just Me?" -- where no question is too small for The Bottom Line.
Q: "In 1991 I watched as they built a new Charter Oak Bridge and improved the interchange with I-91 in that area. As bridges and ramps were built and highways were widened, I noticed a bridge carrying I-91 northbound traffic that seemed to do nothing.
"It is located underneath I-91 northbound right where Route 15 southbound crosses. While driving I-91 south, it is visible on the left just beyond the Sports Sciences Academy.
"Was it supposed to be a new ramp, street, or railroad right-of-way? Or was it some boondoggle? I couldn't tell then and, 23 years later, I am still wondering, 'Why the bridge?'"
Patrick Ladd, West Hartford
A: It's not a bridge. "The 'bridge' your reader was seeing — and still sees — is actually a support structure for the I-91 bridge that was needed to protect a sewer main below," says Judd Everhart, a state Department of Transportation spokesman. "Without it, the sewer main would have been crushed."
It does look like a bridge, however, creating your out of body (of water) experience.
"It looks like it's over no notable feature," says Rich Van Allen, the DOT's manager of bridge operations. "The structure carries 1-91 north but if you look underneath it looks like there's nothing there. It almost looks like, 'Why is it there?'"
But now we know.
"My 93-year-old dad, also of Newington, was a victim of the Publishers Clearinghouse scam starting in October of 2013. These people called him constantly and broke him down.
"By the time we realized what was happening he had lost over $60,000 to these individuals. My dad, who passed away three weeks ago, was a smart man who had all his faculties. These people got into his head, had him chasing all over town wiring funds, setting up a new bank account — to which they could gain access — mailing cash, purchasing Green Dot cards and relaying the serial numbers to them. I am sure the stress on him had a part in his passing.
"We have been working with the Newington Police Department on this case. They have been great. I feel more people, especially the elderly, need to be informed of this scam. Many individuals are embarrassed that they have been taken in by these unscrupulous individuals and do not tell anyone what is going on.
"We had a feeling something wasn't right, but Dad did not share with us. He was hospitalized for two days in November and while we were in his apartment packing up some clothes to take to the hospital, someone called and thinking my husband was Dad, asked for $8,000 since he had 'missed the deadline.'
"We then found receipts for wire transfers and discovered large withdrawals from his bank accounts. When confronted, his response was, 'I just wanted to do something for my grandchildren.'
"If you can, please write more about this scam. I don't want anyone else to go through what our family has been through."
Pam Benoit, Wethersfield
Sweepstakes (Scam) Rules: The Bottom Line last wrote about the Publishers Clearing House scam in late 2012. Like any other scam, it won't end until people stop falling for it.
The real Publishers Clearing House of Port Washington, N.Y., which runs a legitimate sweepstakes, still warns about fake-check schemes. Here's how the scam usually works: Multimillion-dollar "winners" are told payment processing begins only after they send money covering certain expenses. Once the victims send money, the scammers want more.
What you should know:
> Never wire money to claim a sweepstakes or lottery prize.
>> You can't win a contest if you don't enter.
>> If you suspect you've received a phony Publishers Clearing House letter, call the real PCH at 1-800-392-4190 or forward suspicious email claiming to originate from PCH, PCHLotto or PCHSearch&Win to email@example.com.
>> Never cash a check and return money as a condition of "winning" any contest.
>> If you're a victim, don't expect to get your money back. These scams usually originate out of the country.
Remember, it's not just you. Other people want to know, too. Send appropriately benign questions to The Bottom Line at firstname.lastname@example.org.