Pawtucket River Bridge work begins

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Politicians and transportation officials grabbed silver shovels and turned the dirt for the official groundbreaking on the Pawtucket River Bridge.

For the nearly three years heavy trucks have had to get off I-95 and worm their way around the Pawtucket River Bridge. Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle says the diversion has caused so much harm to his city that he's sending a letter to Rhode Island's Congressional delegation outlining the damage.

Detoured trucks rumble right past Danna O'Clair's house, she said the last few years have been miserable.

"They're shaking the whole house when they go by, the windows shake and everything, it's terrible," O'Clair said. "They blow their horns, they use their jar-a-breaks, everything."

The project comes with a $106 million price tag. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation says federal dollars cover 80 percent of that, with state bonds paying for the rest. RIDOT Director Michael Lewis said the goal is to get heavy trucks back on the I-95 overpass in about 18 months.

"And we have an accelerated schedule for construction so we can have these detours off as soon as we can," said Lewis, "and that's currently scheduled for mid 2012. There will be enough of a new bridge in place that the detours will be removed."

RIDOT said a $26,000 bonus is built in for the construction company if it gets trucks back on I-95 by the spring of 2012 and finish the new bridge by the summer of 2013.

State police ticketing big rigs on the shoulder of I-95 has been a common sight since heavy trucks were banned from the overpass. Those police have written thousands of tickets with fines reaching $3,000.

When asked if the state will miss that revenue Governor Don Carcieri chuckled and said, "That's okay; I'd rather have a good bridge here that's handling all the traffic than the revenue."

The new bridge will have art-deco wings echoing details on Pawtucket's City Hall. The wings will be equipped with lights that can change colors for holidays and special events.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you.