The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has learned its lesson about making sure bridges are done on time and done right.
Four years ago, commuters driving across the East Bay of Rhode Island through Barrington and adjacent Warren, R.I., celebrated the opening of two new bridges, which were — through delays and defaults from the original contractor — 15 years in the making.
At the time, the two original bridges along the critical north-south commute along heavily-traveled route 114, spanning both the Warren and Barrington Rivers, had been shut-off from traffic since 1997. Temporary bridges were constructed, but were only supposed to be in place four years, the duration of the contract. Yet, nearly 10 years later, the bridges were still being used.
With a financial rift exposed with the original general contractors and a new contractor put in place to finish the job, it wasn't until 2009 that the new Warren and Barrington Bridges were finished and open to traffic.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) remembers the delays of those spans and vows never to repeat them.
“This bridge project is not like the other bridge projects in Barrington,” said Michael Swift, project manager of RIDOT. “We will get in and get on, be on schedule and on budget with this White Church Bridge.”
Ahead of Schedule Already
The Central, or White Church Bridge project abuts route 114 along Massasoit Avenue, across another, more northerly section of the Barrington River, which parallels the highway from the larger Narragansett Bay.
This highway runs through Warren and Barrington into East Providence. The river flows into Hundred Acre Cove, a pristine environmental haven, fishing and kayaking area.
Built in 1940, the bridge has surpassed its design life and is showing “signs of aggressive deterioration.” This has caused RIDOT to restrict the weight limit to 15 tons, adversely affecting vehicle traffic in the area.
The replacement is under way through a $15 million contract with the Cardi Corporation of Providence. The groundbreaking took place in September for the rapid assembly of two temporary spans on both the north and south sides of the present bridge, which will keep traffic open during brief construction period planned over the next three years.
In addition to time constraints, RIDOT crews must work around protected wildlife and deal with heavy traffic, including dozens of daily school bus crossings.
“From environmental concerns to utilities, there are many factors that had to be taken into consideration as we prepared for this project. The work is being phased in over several years so we can take care of these issues while limiting closures on Massasoit Avenue throughout the life of this project,” said Rosemarie Amoros, chief public affairs officer of RIDOT.
Work is scheduled in phases over the next several years.
• Phase one involves demolishing portions of the existing structure and roadway approaches through June 2014. No in-water construction work will take place from February to June to protect the migratory marine species in Hundred Acre Cove.
• Phase two involves the construction of the north side of the new bridge. The existing gas and water lines and overhead utilities will be relocated. The northern half of the bridge is scheduled to open by August 2015.
• Phases three and four involve the demolition and reconstruction of the southern half of the bridge. The goal is to have the new bridge fully open to traffic by October 2016.
• The final phase involves wetland work along the bridge, Riverview Drive and Virginia Drive. Crews will complete paving and striping work, and a hydrographic survey to determine the construction impact to the river. This portion of the project is scheduled to wrap up by May 2017.
“We have worked closely with the town throughout this process to make sure that all concerns were addressed,” said Amoros. “Specifically, we arranged a schedule that allowed the bridge to stay open throughout construction, raised the vertical clearance by two feet, and increased the width of the sidewalks and roadway to accommodate vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and fishermen.”
Sheeting the Key
Swift confirmed that the building of the temporary bridges had begun in late October.
The east abutment began later in November.
“We are working concurrently,” Swift said. “Our crews will be jumping back and forth, from one side to the other.”
Swift reiterated that existing traffic lanes will be kept open while the curb demolitions and the tie-ins to the temporary spans are made, bolstered by the support sheeting placed during Phase one of the project.
He said that like other infamous Barrington bridges, this will be completed the same way — temporary spans to keep critical traffic flowing will be used, and torn down when the new bridge is finished. However, unlike those projects, RIDOT and general contractor Cardi Corp. have put strict deadlines into place with incentives and goals that DOT is demanding be met on time and on budget.
“The other Barrington bridges took a long time in construction, 14 years for the entire project,” said Swift. “Those temporary bridges were up for almost ten years. But not so, on this project. Cardi is already doing an excellent job. They submitted a lot of pre-approval work. We have a February 1st critical deadline to get all the sheeting into place so that we do not get behind. The moldings have to be done by February 1.”
The original bridge is 24 ft. (7.3 m) wide with two 12-ft. (3.7 m) travel lanes. The new bridge will have three 11-ft. (3.4 m) wide travel lanes when completed, with two 5-ft. (1.5 m) shoulders and two 5.5-ft. (1.7 m) wide sidewalks, according to Swift. The roadway meeting the bridges will be expanded from 24 ft. (7.3 m) to 43 ft. (13.1 m) wide.
There will be two travel lanes heading to the suburban area of homes called Hampden Meadows from Rte. 114 and one heading to Rte. 114, away from that area.
Currently, in the demolition phase, six to eight crew members are working shifts from about 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Swift said, during the sheeting phase, eight to 10 men will be working daily, and from eight to 12 people will be driving the sheeting at any one time to meet the first critical state deadline.
“The pile driving crew is a fluid situation,” said Swift. “We will vary the number of men per phase. The piles are circular steel piles filled with concrete, driven directly into the piles. There are no coffer dams in place.”
There are numerous sub-contractors in place, including:
• Demolition sub — The Demolition Company (TDC), headquartered out of North Carolina, with offices in Boston
• Sheeting and pile sub — M.I.G. Construction of Acton, Mass.
• Landscaping sub — M.O.N. of North Dartmouth, Mass. (including hay bales and sediment control)
• Construction formwork sub — Algar of Brockton, Mass.
The new bridge will be located slightly north of the old bridge.
“We are taking some wetlands from the area, mitigating some wetlands,” said Swift. “We will be compensating for that in the southwest corner with new wetland plantings. The two adjoining roads, Virginia Drive and Riverside Drive, contain much of the mitigated areas. There has to be asphalt removal and retention areas with plantings to compensate what we are taking.”
Rare diamond terrapins breed along this river, and the estuary and cove are filled with unusual birds like great blue herron, egrets and piping plovers and vital species of fish, including migrating bait fish (American chad, pogies, anchovies, etc.), the striped bass, blue fish, flounder, blackfish, monk fish, eels and many other species which feed on them.
Swift said that officials in Barrington were very involved with the design process and plans to protect everything along the way until the project's completion in 2017.
“There were many changes in the plans, with the town keeping the bridge open during the process, they wanted that; changing the width of the bridge, etc. We had a good relationship and are working closely with officials throughout the entire process,” Swift said.
The first month went extremely well, according to Swift.
“There is always traffic back-up on this bridge every morning, but it doesn't seem to be any worse since the work began,” said Swift. The route is especially well-traveled by school buses, going to and from Barrington High School, which stands directly across the street at the intersection of Rte. 114 and Massasoit Avenue.
“We have kept the schools and the bus company in the loop. They know our complete closure and road shifting schedule. We have had no complaints to this juncture from the schools or the buses or the families whose children are on them.”
Swift said that for this town of only 19,000 people, “This bridge will be done on time.”
For more information, visit to www.dot.ri.gov.