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RIDOT Supervises Final Phase of Route 403 Ahead of Schedule

Fri August 24, 2007 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla

Just one more phase to go — less than a year to do it — and almost a year ahead of the initial construction schedule.

Five stages complete, the $130 million Route 403 project is in the last phase of what will be a dazzling new freeway connecting the existing Route 4 freeway in East Greenwich with the Quonset/Davisville Port and Commerce Park in North Kingstown — also called the Quonset Industrial Park.

The eight-year project opens up a whole new corridor in Rhode Island, while rerouting heavy, unwanted vehicular traffic from schools and various rural communities along the way.

This 4.5-mi. (7.2 km), four-lane, controlled-access concrete path will contain three interchanges, a total of 14.8 mi. (23.8 km) of roadways (including the main freeway and the ramps), 14 new bridges, two bridge rehabilitations, an extensive storm drainage and water quality treatment system and environmental mitigation improvements.

When finished, the new 403 will improve commercial access from Providence, Boston, Connecticut, and even New York, to the Quonset Industrial Park, taking that commercial traffic — mostly in the form of 18-wheel service and delivery trucks — away from the neighborhoods that dot the old freeway that it will circumvent.

$130M, 80 Percent Federal Money

With 80 percent of the funding coming from the federal government, the freeway was constructed in six contracts beginning in 2000 and is scheduled to open in approximately eight months.

“We’re constructing an entirely new roadway from Route 4 in East Greenwich, all the way into the Quonset Point/Davisville Development,” said Frank Corrao, deputy chief engineer of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT). That’s more than four miles, and it includes building new bridges, new connecting roads and new landscaping along the way.”

Corrao said that at project’s end, RIDOT anticipates an annual average of about 20,800 vehicles per day, using the new highway in both directions. An average of about 12,000 vehicles per day traveled over the former highway.

“Volume is definitely increasing,” added Corrao. “One of the precursors of this roadway was trying to develop the Quonset Point/Davisville area as an attractive industrial park area. As a result of this new roadway, access will improve to that roadway,” and should lead to an increase in established businesses and the advent of new businesses coming to Rhode Island. “In late spring of 2008, it should be totally open to traffic.”

Corrao said that, based on all bids since the project began in 2000, total costs should be approximately $130 million to date — the entire construction costs, all the contracting and subcontracting work, including extensive landscaping to preserve significant wetlands surrounding the roads. With 80 percent of that figure coming from the feds, Rhode Island taxpayers will have to foot a bill of “only” about $26 million.

Corrao added that because of the construction of 14 bridges along the 4.5 mi. of new road and their various interchanges and connections, “extensive environmental remediation” needed to be done, “in order to construct this highway, with the creation of some wetlands and detention ponds to control future run off.”

Delays, detours and impediments have been minimized, however, Corrao said, because virtually all of the work has been done on the new corridor and not on the existing highway, Frenchtown Road.

“One of the reasons impact has been minimal is because most of this project has been constructed on a new alignment,” said Corrao, mostly above or below, the current roads and bridges. “We are building a whole new roadway in a new corridor that either crosses over or goes under existing roadways. As a result of that, impact to the motoring public has been minimal.”

The primary impact to the surrounding communities and the motoring public has been the shifting of traffic on Frenchtown Road, in order for the bridges to be constructed, especially the overpasses. “There were two lanes before and there are two lanes now, but the lanes have shifted,” said Corrao. “We have a great working relationship with both the towns of East Greenwich and North Kingstown, and they have been very good partners in this entire project.”

Cardi Corporation has been the primary contractor over the past few years. A number of subcontractors have helped them, according to Corrao, including North Kingstown’s own C. & J. Forms, which has done the great majority of concrete deck work, Donaldson Pile Driving of Cumberland, R.I., which has done pile work and sheeting, and MON Landscaping of Dartmouth, Mass. which has done the majority of the significant surrounding landscaping.

Traffic Alleviated Through Community

The new highway will be a boon for neighborhoods, according to RIDOT. The new RI 403 will carry virtually all of the commercial traffic from Quonset Point/Davisville. The families who live in homes along the old Davisville Road will not see the huge commercial trucks, which used to whiz by their doors.

“Also, other businesses that are not commercially-based, but have their own normal employee traffic — businesses like General Dynamics or Toray, with their large base of employees — will now be driving on this new road and not utilizing the old road,” which formerly had been the only access in and out of Route. 4.

Corrao estimated that some 500,000 cu. yds. (382,277 cu m) of earth will have been moved and placed at project’s end, along with some 100 tons (91 t) of asphalt and about 10,000 cu. yds. (7,645 cu m) of concrete, mostly on bridge decks and other related overpass structures.

At any one point, drivers going down the old road will see 30 to 40 workers on site per day, as well as a small fleet of Yuke dump trucks — very large capacity dump trucks used to remove earth — as well as several cranes used to set steel beams on bridges.

The biggest challenge, Corrao said, has been working around and mitigating the delicate wetland environment, most notably the flow and banks of the one of the natural jewels in that part of Rhode Island, the Hunts River.

“Our only challenges have been the environmental constraints. We have the Hunts River, a very pristine river, and its watershed, that runs through the entire project,” said Corrao. “We’ve done our best to coordinate and work with abutting neighborhoods, adjacent to schools, to minimize any impact there.”

Corrao said contractors also have had to work closely with Amtrak, as part of the project includes a highway bridge directly across high-speed train tracks in the corridor that connects Boston and Providence to New Haven and New York.

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