Updated at 1:55 p.m.
Portsmouth's Island Park residents will need to find a new route to work and school as of Thursday afternoon.
Despite an earlier notice about the closing Friday morning, Portsmouth Police Chief Lance E. Hebert has confirmed that the bridge is, as of this moment, closed to all traffic.
"The bridge is closed as of now," Hebert said. "State police are stopping traffic on one end and Portsmouth on the other."
A Portsmouth police officer was seen around 1 p.m. on the bridge advising motorists to find an alternative route.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a press release just before noon Thursday, stating the would close Friday due to significant deterioration. Despite this release, traffic is now being diverted.
"The results of a recent inspection revealed deterioration significant enough to prompt RIDOT to close the span," according to the DOT release.
The bridge carries Point Road over a tidal inlet in the Island Park area of Portsmouth. The Cove Bridge has been slated for a major rehabilitation project, which called for the total closure of the bridge during its rehabilitation.
However, after during hurricane season, DOT decided to keep the bridge open a little longer. Point Road is one of two roads that serve as evacuation routes for the Island Park area.
DOT previously announced the bridge would . However, DOT must close the bridge earlier in light of the findings of the recent inspection.
“Public safety is always our top priority,” DOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “We regret any inconvenience this early closure may cause. We will work to keep the community well-informed as the project progresses.”
With the early closure of the bridge, DOT will work with the contractor to commence construction operations as soon as possible. Through a $2 million contract with Cardi Corp., DOT will replace the superstructure of the 50-year-old bridge.
The bridge is expected to remain closed until late spring 2012.
Motorists will be directed to follow a detour using Park Avenue, Anthony Road and Boyds Lane. A detour map will be posted on DOT’s Web site.
Those with questions can contact DOT’s Customer Service office at 401-222-2450 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional information will be available on DOT’s social media sites on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Blogger.