Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined officials from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and other Federal, State and local officials today to rededicate the Laurel Avenue Bridge as the Major-General Nathanael Greene Memorial Bridge.
Highlights of the ceremony adjacent to the bridge in Coventry included the presence of members of the Rhode Island Historic Militia and other living historians. They paraded in formation across the bridge to open the event and concluded it with a volley of musket fire. A class of eighth-grade students from Nathanael Greene Middle School in Providence also attended the event to learn more about the Revolutionary War hero for whom their school is named. The students and those in attendance then visited the nearby Greene Homestead, built in 1770. A nearby manufacturing facility, Concordia Fibers, suffered significant damage in the 2010 floods and hosted today's event.
"Major-General Greene was not only one of the most legendary leaders in Rhode Island history, but one of the most influential figures in the Revolutionary War," Governor Chafee said. "His contributions to the development and early history of our country cannot be understated. A simple act such as naming this bridge after Greene helps make younger generations aware of his and Rhode Island's notable role in the formation of the United States."
RIDOT reopened the Greene Bridge on November 8, approximately three weeks ahead of schedule. The bridge was damaged beyond repair by historic flooding from March 2010 that forced the closure of many bridges in Kent County and South County.
The bridge is a vital connection for residents in the Anthony Village area, and is one of only three crossings of the Pawtuxet River in Coventry that permit north-south travel between the Route 3 (Tiogue Avenue) and Route 117 (Main Street/Washington Street) business corridors.
"I am pleased to have secured federal funds to help with the completion of this new bridge, which marks another step towards a full recovery from the historic floods that swept across our state in 2010," said Senator Reed, who helped secure $3.2 million to help replace the Laurel Avenue Bridge. "The new Major-General Nathanael Greene Memorial Bridge will not only improve our state's infrastructure, but will also ease traffic and better connect residents of Coventry separated by the Pawtuxet River."
"This historic bridge was severely damaged during the 2010 floods, causing extreme safety hazards for Rhode Islanders. I commend RIDOT for repairing the bridge while carefully preserving its historic nature," said Senator Whitehouse.
This was the first design-build bridge contract for RIDOT, using a team approach with a design engineering firm and a construction company working closely together to design and replace the structure in as short a time frame as possible. The Department awarded the $2.9 million contract to Cardi/CME in Fall 2011, with design work beginning immediately.
"The use of accelerated construction methods, such as design-build, is a high priority for RIDOT moving forward," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "The results speak for themselves. We were able to complete a complex project and restore a vital connection for Coventry in a relatively short time frame."
The project also involved restoration of the riverbed and walls under the bridge, which is adjacent to a large dam. The force of the flood waters severely eroded the walls of the river, compromising the structural integrity of the former bridge. Using large sandbags to divert the river's flow, RIDOT built a concrete base – called a splash pad – at the base of the falls. This was tied into new concrete walls on both sides of the river. To preserve the historic nature of the dam and river walls, RIDOT saved the original granite blocks that were washed out, cut them into 10-inch-thick pieces and attached them to the new concrete to give the appearance of a laid-granite wall.
The bridge itself was built on a series of drilled piles placed behind the concrete walls and set 60 feet deep, well below the riverbed. The design sets the bridge apart structurally from the river walls, which will ensure its stability and longevity even if extreme flooding occurs again on the Pawtuxet River.
"The Town is grateful for the restoration of the bridge," Coventry Town Council President Gary P. Cote said. "The Town especially appreciates the attention of detail on the Greene bridge, from the historical markers on either end telling more about the Major-General to the stone work under the bridge that makes it blend in seamlessly with this historic mill village."
The new bridge is 84 feet long, and four feet wider than its predecessor. It includes sidewalks on both sides, affording great views of the river and adjacent mill buildings.
Contact: Charles St. Martin 401-222-1362, Ext. 4007