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Walk This Way: RIDOT Opens New India Point Park Pedestrian Bridge

Fri December 05, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

Calling it an extension of the neighborhood it serves, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) dedicated the new India Point Park Pedestrian Bridge in October.

The park-like span connects the Fox Point neighborhood in the East Side of Providence with India Point Park on the Providence waterfront. The $9.5 million bridge was built as part of the IWAY project, the largest highway project in the state’s history with an estimated $610 million price tag.

“That bridge was part of a larger contract. Part of the [Route 195] IWAY project. The total cost of this part of the project was $26,113,268. It included many things, including the rebuilding of that bridge,” said Lambri Zerva, design project manager of RIDOT. “We called it Contract 9. It included rebuilding the bridge, a lot of road work around it, work in the park, a large sewer pipe relocation that had to be done and more.”

The new bridge is 48 ft. (14.6 m) wide, six times wider than the original bridge, and spans I-195 just west of the Washington Bridge. The bridge also is an integral part of the IWAY, with on- and off-ramps in the India Point Park area passing underneath the bridge.

Zerva said the wider design was used to enhance and improve the connections throughout the neighborhood, to keep the very sense of neighborhood.

“Prior to the bridge, one of the things we were trying to correct was that the old bridge was only 8 feet wide, a narrow bridge with a chain- link fence around it,” said Zerva. “As part of building 195, we had to infringe upon park, the neighborhoods, change traffic patterns. So, rather than rebuild a small bridge, similar to what it was, we wanted to build something nicer and try to mitigate the impact on the neighborhood and extend the park; to make it much more pedestrian-friendly and more park-like, all connected, so you never have to leave one for the other. You are always in a better environment.”

Despite the volume of traffic passing underneath the bridge, RIDOT officials said the India Point Park Bridge is a quiet place, especially on the India Point Park side where a series of stairs and ramps serves as a buffer between the highway and the park. The bridge was constructed with numerous planters in which a variety of small trees, shrubs and other landscaping will be planted next spring, further enhancing the park-like feel of the bridge.

“The new bridge is not just a means to get from the East Side to the waterfront,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “The bridge is an integral part of both the neighborhood and the park.”

RIDOT built the new pedestrian bridge in the same location as the original span, which was built in 1971. Construction of the IWAY required the bridge to be removed because its piers would have impeded the alignment of I-195 to the IWAY.

RIDOT demolished the old span in 2005. Officials said that construction of the new bridge was challenging due to the complexity of building the ramp structures on the southern end of the bridge and successful efforts to preserve a large red oak tree on the northern end.

According to spokesperson Charles St. Martin of RIDOT, the bridge features a number of amenities including built-in concrete benches and column-like lighting. A large compass rose is set in the bridge at its southern end. Upon arriving in the park, pedestrians will find many new improvements including new sidewalks, walkways, landscaping and parking lots. These improvements also were made as part of the IWAY project.

“In Providence, we understand that a great quality of life and economic growth go hand-in-hand. We have worked hard during the re-routing of I-195 to make sure that we seize all opportunities for both,” Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline said. “The new India Point Park Bridge is the result of good planning, good partnerships and having the right priorities.”

The Friends of India Point Park organized a community celebration for the India Point Park Pedestrian Bridge on Oct. 18. The celebration included music, food, face painting and other family-friendly activities. The event began with a procession across the bridge, starting on George M. Cohan Boulevard, on the Fox Point side of the bridge.

“We are thrilled to have the park connected once again to our neighborhood and our city,” said Heather Florence of the Friends of India Point Park at the celebration. “We hope it will encourage even more people to enjoy this unique stretch of shoreline in the Ocean State.

“Here you see office folks and UPS drivers picnicking at lunch time, families gathering for the Sunday soccer games, kids of all ages in the playground, with its wonderful historic mural, always aspiring fisherman, and then, when winter comes, we will have the joy of seeing children sledding on the hill below, which RIDOT delivered as promised,” added Florence. “Our park will also become the hub of biking in the region, with completion of the Washington Bridge bike path and future paths heading north along the Seekonk [Mass.] and west into Downcity. This is both the backyard for the people and the jewel, as Mayor Cicilline has said, in the emerald necklace to adorn our city.

Also at the dedication, RIDOT announced the opening of India Street westbound. This new road allows greater access to the Providence waterfront and to the Wickenden Street area via South Water Street. The new road also allows access to the South Main Street on-ramp to I-195.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at CEG

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