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RIDOT using “zipper truck” on Route 146 project


The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has begun a resurfacing project on Route 146 in Lincoln that may have motorists thinking they are on the Southeast Expressway in Boston. That’s because RIDOT will be using the same type of movable barrier system – and the same special “zipper truck”– used to mitigate traffic congestion in Massachusetts’ largest city.

The movable barrier will be used along 1 mile of Route 146 from the area of the Sherman Avenue exit to the area of the Route 116 interchange. Each night the barrier will be moved from the edge of the road to shut down a lane of travel. Each morning, the barrier will be moved back to the shoulder or median area to restore two lanes of travel in each direction. The special truck picks up the barrier on one side and sets it down on the other, with a zipper-like effect. This is the first time a movable barrier system has been used in Rhode Island.

Use of movable barrier provides many advantages. Among them are a shorter construction schedule, increased safety, and costs that are on par, if not less expensive, than using conventional barrier.

The zipper truck only takes about 20 minutes to move about 6,000 feet of movable barrier, as opposed to a couple of hours needed for moving the same length of conventional barrier. Because barrier placement is faster, RIDOT can work on longer stretches of the highway than would be possible with conventional barrier. Less time involved in setup and larger work areas allow more work to be done each night so the project can be completed in one construction season rather than two. RIDOT expects this operation to conclude in the fall.

“Given the level of restoration needed on this segment of highway and the traffic volumes on Route 146, restricting traffic to only one lane during construction would have caused significant and unacceptable traffic tie-ups,” Director Michael P. Lewis said. “Using movable barrier allows us to get the job done quickly and safely.”

During the design phase of the project, RIDOT weighed its options on how to handle traffic during the project. Route 146 in Lincoln is somewhat narrow, leaving little room to establish lane shifts as the Department has been able to do on other highway resurfacing projects. RIDOT consulted with the New York Department of Transportation, which has a long track record of successful use of movable barrier for construction projects, before moving forward with movable barrier for this project.

RIDOT believes the use of movable barrier will be safer for both those working on the project as well as motorists driving on it. A review of costs associated with using the movable barrier show it to be comparable with conventional barrier, and slightly less expensive given that less labor is required as compared with moving conventional barrier. Fewer police details and other traffic support personnel are needed, further reducing costs.

While the Route 146 resurfacing project will wrap up in Fall 2010, the project will continue until Summer 2011 as RIDOT will also be rehabilitating the Wilbur Road Bridge as part of this project. The $8.2 million project is being built by D’Ambra Construction and is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Motorists with questions can contact RIDOT’s Customer Service office at 401-222-2450 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Additional information will be available on RIDOT’s website (www.dot.ri.gov) and its social media sites on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Blogger.

Note: Media wishing to view the “zipper truck” in operation may do so from the Break Neck Hill Road (Route 123) overpass.

Contact: Charles St. Martin 401-222-1362 x4007


Related links

Department or agency: Department of Transportation