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April 25, 2018 10:15 AM, EDT
Rhode Island Targets Deficient Bridges This Construction Season
The Horton Farm Bridge in East Providence, R.I. The Horton Farm Bridge in East Providence, R.I., with (inset) deterioration of a girder underneath. (RIDOT)

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is aiming to redress its high percentage of structurally deficient bridges during this construction season, according to agency spokesman Charles St. Martin.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and RIDOT Director Peter Alviti kicked off Rhode Island’s $890 million construction season April 19 with a groundbreaking event for the replacement of the Horton Farm Bridge, which links the East Shore Expressway to Interstate 195 in East Providence. St. Martin said construction season usually runs through mid-December.

Raimondo and Alviti

Raimondo (left) and Alviti kick off the 2018 construction season, which is set to include more than 100 active projects worth $890 million. (RIDOT via Facebook)

Several of the projects that are either continuing or beginning this construction season have to do with the rehabilitation of bridges. Rhode Island has long endured poor bridge conditions. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s 2017 deficient bridge report, Rhode Island had the most structurally deficient bridges as a percentage of their of total inventory, at 23.3%.

“Historically, Rhode Island has ranked 50th out of 50 states in terms of a high percentage of deficient bridges,” St. Martin said. “This will get us from 75.7% bridge sufficiency to 90%, the national standard.”

The 34-year-old Horton Farm Bridge, which trucks can traverse, faces server concrete and steel deterioration, according to a press release issued by RIDOT. The agency plans to replace the bridge’s entire superstructure, which will cost about $16.6 million.

Half of the bridge will be closed from early June to this fall. The remaining half of the bridge will be worked on next spring, and the project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2019.

Our hope is that they prioritize these bridges where there are weight restrictions because it is becoming problematic to our industry — to grocers, to construction, to everybody.

Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell

Maxwell

“Our roads and bridges have been in disrepair for too long,” Alviti said at the groundbreaking event. “We are turning the tide and are about to embark on our busiest road construction season ever.”

Another one of the 110 projects undertaken during this season is the repair of the State Route 10-U.S. Route 6 interchange about 2 miles west of Providence. This project involves the replacement of nine bridge structures that make up the interchange, seven of which are structurally deficient.

RIDOT also is working on the replacement of the I-95 northbound viaduct in Providence, which is the most congested corridor in the state. This project involves the rebuilding of existing interchange bridges and the construction of three new ones.

ARTBA Bridge Profile 2018 Rhode Island by Transport Topics on Scribd

St. Martin acknowledged that, while most of the projects are involve repair and not expansion, they still will contribute to the movement of freight.

“They will lessen congestion and improve freight with smoother roads, safety improvements, improved signage and striping and fewer weight limits as bridge projects are completed and structurally deficient bridges are removed from our inventory,” St. Martin said.

Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell said that shoring up the bridges so that they can accommodate more weight will alleviate some of the constrictions his members encounter. He said the state’s bridges are in such poor condition that trucks frequently have to avoid them, stymying the flow of goods. Maxwell used the example of a driver from Massachusetts who called him because he was having trouble delivering groceries to Providence.

This year the public will see a level of transportation construction we have never seen before as hundreds of millions of dollars of work gets underway.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo

Raimondo

“The bridges are falling down,” Maxwell said. “Our hope is that they prioritize these bridges where there are weight restrictions because it is becoming problematic to our industry — to grocers, to construction, to everybody.”

Bridge and interchange rehabilitation efforts are among the chief goals of Raimondo’s RhodeWorks program, which is projected to generate $4.7 billion to finance infrastructure projects.

“Our hard work is paying off. Efforts to rebuild our transportation system have been ongoing since the start of RhodeWorks, but this year the public will see a level of transportation construction we have never seen before as hundreds of millions of dollars of work gets underway,” Raimondo said at the groundbreaking. “There are more construction jobs in Rhode Island right now than at any other time in the last decade. We have to keep building on that momentum.”