Park Ave. bridge work delayed to next summer

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Construction of a new Park Avenue railroad bridge to have started this summer won’t begin until 2019 according to the state Department of Transportation.

In 2015, the aging bridge, now 112 years old, was shut down temporarily for emergency repairs. Its replacement was made a priority and last year signs appeared construction would start this year. Now RIDOT is projecting construction to start next summer with an expected completion date of November 2020.

The project will require the detour of approximately 23,000 vehicular trips daily and coordination with Amtrak and its operations.

In 2016, the Federal Highway Agency awarded RIDOT a $1 million grant for the design and replacement of the bridge. That’s just part of the cost.

According to Lisbeth Pettengill, communications director for the RIDOT, said the total cost of the project is projected at $9 million. She said 80 percent of the cost would be borne by the federal government with the remaining 20 percent paid by the state.

The state received notice to proceed with the project on July 8. Currently, the RIDOT is in the design phase, to get a “scope of the work”, as Pettengill puts it. After the design is completed, it has to be approved by Amtrak.

Charles St. Martin, the chief public affairs officer for RIDOT, said that anytime crews are working around Amtrak facilities, Amtrak needs to come and “de-energize” the wires, which would normally happen at night.

Ken Mason, director of Public Works for the City of Cranston, said there is a water main in the bridge, a gas main, telephone lines, and electrified overhead wires for the tracks below. He also said the deck of the bridge is wood, which was repaired during the emergency closure in 2015.

But, adds Jason Pezzullo from the city planning department, that was only a “patch job.”

The bridge, which has been noticeably structurally deficient, was built in 1906. It is inspected every 2 years as standard procedure, but during the design stages it is checked “a little more periodically,” according to St. Martin. Over the years, it has had minor repairs.

St. Martin also said that this time around, they are trying a new approach called “early contractor involvement”, which is when a contractor is brought in to guide the design of the bridge, and helps to develop a set of plans that will make it less likely to run into issues during construction. He said that this strategy leads to the bridge getting done faster.

The bridge will be completely shut down during construction. Detours will be set up like before in 2015, which is taking Wellington Avenue to Elmwood Avenue and back to Park Avenue.

According to Councilman Ken Hopkins, who chairs the Public Works Committee for the Cranston City Council, he hasn’t heard about the bridge on Park Avenue in terms of construction.

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