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DOT Pushes Sakonnet Bridge Opening To September

The state Department of Transportation delays the opening of the northbound lanes of the Sakonnet River Bridge to September.

Three months after surpassing its first timeline milestone, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is chasing a date for opening the Sakonnet River Bridge's northbound lanes.

According to Charles St. Martin, information and public relations specialist, a series of setbacks delayed construction and caused Cardi Corp. to miss its May deadline for transferring traffic to the new structure. The earliest the northbound lanes could open is now late September.

"When [Cardi Corporation] bid, they helped determine that milestone date as part of the competitive bidding process," said St. Martin. "The main focus was to get rid of the weight limit. That's why we placed an emphasis on getting the bridge to a point where it was serviceable as soon as possible."

Until traffic can be diverted to the new bridge, all vehicles in excess of 18 tons are being diverted from the failing structure, causing lengthy detours for trucks, buses and other large vehicles trying to pass through Aquidneck Island via Route 24.

According to St. Martin the construction contract calls for penalties for missed milestones, but first the DOT will need to determine who is at fault for the delays.

"We would need to asses that once they reach the goal when traffic is on the bridge," said St. Martin. "We then look back and assess what that it would be - it could be owner delay or contractor delay, so sometimes there is shared responsibility - percentages on them, or us. That determines what the penalty would be."

Humid, wet weather is the biggest problem for readying the northbound lanes for traffic right now. Waterproofing the bridge deck to seal it off from stress cracks must be done in a dry environment and August proved rainy and humid.

Cardi also lost several months in the summer of 2010 when bad concrete and in support piles and design flaws set construction back several months, according to St. Martin. Cardi corrected both problems.

The $163.7 million reconstruction project broke ground in April 2009 and despite the setbacks, the DOT said it is still generally on track. Construction isn't slated to be totally completed until May of 2013 and St. Martin said the contractor could make up time before then.

DOT will not give a date, but speculated the northbound lanes would open to traffic in late-September. The southbound lanes will open about two weeks to a month after.

After the project is completed, St. Martin said a separate contract would be awarded for the dismantling of the old bridge. While he said demolishing the structure with explosives due to its proximity to the new bridge was unlikely, he added that DOT had not determined how the bridge would be removed or the cost. 

Ownership of the bridge will be transferred to the state Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) after total project completion, at which time the RITBA will move to install tolls.

Joe Sousa. September 13, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The contractor will most likely not be fined .The problems are fabricated to delay the opening . This gives the State time to get Federal approval for transfer . That's my conspiracy theory. Call or write your Federal Rep's and tell them to stop this. They have the ability to stop the transfer by petitioning the Federal Highway administration .
Robert E September 14, 2012 at 01:02 AM
You have seen no one working because the have not been working. They have not done any work on the sence thay anounced that there were cracks in the roadbed that they were gluing together. I don't think the glue worked because everything came to a grinding hault.
Portsmouth Senior Citizen September 15, 2012 at 05:33 PM
"The state Department of Transportation delays the opening of the northbound lanes of the Sakonnet River Bridge to September." I don't this so. Rumor has it that the NEW Bridge is settling and has major cracks on the roadway. In other words the NEW Sakonnet River Bridge is sinking. Bridge built on the wrong side – too much sand. Bridge should have been built on the other side. Big team coming to inspect. Heard the words “expansion bridge”. If this is all true, who will be responsible for the cost? How many more years will we be holding our breaths traveling over the existing Sakonnet Bridge? Is the existing bridge really safe to travel on? As one who travels over the existing bridge daily, is my life more in danger than ever before? RI taxpayers, we deserve to know the truth.

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