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RIDOT Takes Unique Bidding Approach for Sakonnet Span

Fri August 29, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is taking a unique approach toward the reconstruction of one of its largest bay-crossing bridges by issuing bid specifications for two types of bridge designs for the same structure. Contractors will be able to submit bids for both steel and concrete bridge designs.

RIDOT intends to seek construction bids later in 2008 and to begin construction of a new Sakonnet River Bridge in early 2009. The project is anticipated to take four years to complete with the new bridge open to traffic in 2011 and the existing Sakonnet River Bridge demolished the following year.

The dual bid approach allows RIDOT to fully examine all its options with either a steel or concrete bridge design. The department also expects that this approach will help insulate Rhode Island from unstable materials costs, allowing it to choose one design over the other based on concrete and steel prices.

“Rhode Island is no different than other states in the country dealing with limited resources and a demand for projects that far outweighs the dollars available to pay for them,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “This is especially true for bridges. To enhance our ability to keep this project moving forward and completed in a timely manner, we will be soliciting bids for the two design options.”

An estimated 40,000 vehicles per day cross the Sakonnet River Bridge between Portsmouth and Tiverton. The bridge currently has an 18-ton (16 t) weight limit, requiring truck traffic to the Aquidneck Island communities of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth to seek alternate routes.

The proposed bridge will be located to the south of the existing bridge, stretching 2,265 ft. (690 m) across the Sakonnet River. RIDOT in the past year tested various pile designs to provide more accurate information for contractors on the type and size of piles needed to support the bridge. Additionally, RIDOT completed a value engineering effort on the bridge, shaving off some $34 million. Chief among the savings was a decision to lower the profile of the bridge and build a large embankment for the eastern approach. This reduces approximately 470 ft. (143 m) of elevated roadway over land.

The bridge will have four 12-ft. (3.6 m) lanes and a bike path along its northern edge. The project also calls for a parking area and a boat ramp on the Tiverton side of the bridge.

RIDOT, through its Contractor Outreach Program, has made the PS&E Design Plans & Contract Documents for the replacement of the bridge available for contractor review. These plans and contract documents are solely for informational purposes, and are not to be used for bidding and are not approved for construction. Some volumes are common to both design options, while other volumes are specific to a particular alternative.

For more information, call 401/222-2495 ext. 4400 or visit

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