The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that on Friday, April 20, 2012, it will open the first span of the new Pawtucket River Bridge to traffic on I-95 North. The opening of this structure will allow RIDOT to lift the northbound 18-ton weight limit that has required trucks and other large vehicles on I-95 North to use local detours or longer highway detours.
"This is a big milestone, a day we have been working hard toward ever since construction began on the new Pawtucket River Bridge," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "All northbound trucks will be able to remain on I-95 and the northbound detour through Pawtucket will no longer be necessary."
With the opening of the first span of the new bridge, RIDOT will move rapidly to replace the existing northbound bridge. That structure is expected to be open by the end of this year, allowing the Department to shift I-95 southbound to it, thereby eliminating the southbound weight limit.
The work to shift I-95 North traffic to the new bridge will require lane closures on Thursday, April 19, beginning at 9 p.m. During the overnight hours, starting at approximately midnight, RIDOT will close I-95 North completely to finalize the restriping of travel lanes. When the highway is closed, all traffic will be required to use Exit 27 (Downtown) and the Division Street Bridge to bypass the closed highway.
During the full highway closure, motorists can expect delays and should seek alternate routes such as Route 146 and I-295. All lanes are scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m., prior to the morning commute. RIDOT also will reopen Exit 28 (School Street), which closed on April 9 for construction needed before opening the new bridge.
Once I-95 North traffic has been shifted to the new bridge, RIDOT will begin demolition of the old I-95 North bridge. This work is expected to take approximately two months, with demolition planned for daytime and overnight hours.
RIDOT will build the new northbound span in the same location as the original one. When it opens later this year, RIDOT will temporarily shift I-95 southbound traffic to it. At that point, all highway traffic will be on new structures and the weight limit will be completely lifted. Construction will continue, however, into 2013 with the demolition and reconstruction of the southbound bridge.
Building the bridge in phases has allowed RIDOT to complete the reconstruction of the Pawtucket River Bridge with minimal impact to highway traffic and no reduction in travel lanes throughout the life of the project.
Construction will take place on other nearby bridge structures in 2012, including the George Street, Pine Street and Garden Street bridges. By the end of 2012 – in the span of just two years – the Department will have opened seven out of 10 bridges being built as part of this project.
Construction of the new Pawtucket River Bridge is a high priority for the Department. The bridge is being replaced through an $81 million contract with S&R/Pihl, a Joint Venture.
All schedules are weather-dependent and subject to change.
Detailed information, including detour maps, will be available at RIDOT's website at www.dot.ri.gov. Motorists with questions can contact RIDOT's Customer Service office at 401-222-2450 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional information can be found on RIDOT's social media sites Twitter and Facebook.
Contact: Bryan Lucier 401-222-1362 x4012