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Bridge portion must be reworked

January 10, 2012

PAWTUCKET — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has required the contractors to rework a portion of the newly constructed Pawtucket River Bridge after an inspection late last month turned up a structural problem.
According to Charles St. Martin, press spokesman for RIDOT, the newly constructed main arch contains a component called a spandrel where vertical pieces of steel connect from the top of the arch to the bottom girders parallel to the road. Once the spandrel was assembled, it was inspected by RIDOT officials, who discovered that several of these vertical steel beams were out of alignment.
“We informed them (the contractors) that it was not according to plan and specification,” St. Martin said. “We saw it, we caught it and they have been working on a corrective plan.”
He said that to fix the problem requires removing other steel components that had been placed over the portion that is out of alignment, and he doesn't know yet how much of a delay these extra steps will cause.
St. Martin said the inspection was one of many that are done regularly as the bridge work progresses through various stages as part of RIDOT's quality assurance program. The $81 million bridge project, which began in November of 2010, includes the replacement of the main span that carries I-95 across the river, as well as construction of an access road and upgrades two three other nearby bridges.
The bridge project is a joint one between two contractors, S&R and Pihl. One main section of the project, the span that will carry northbound I-95 traffic across the river, was originally scheduled to be completed by this spring, but that deadline had been pushed back even prior to the alignment issue. St. Martin said RIDOT is waiting for a full account of how much the timetable will have to be adjusted due to the latest problem. He added that if the weather continues to be mild, the contractors will be able to make up the lost time more quickly.
St. Martin added that even with the newest setback, construction work also continues on the George Street and Garden Street bridges, which are part of the entire project. The final completion date for everything is May of 2013.
St. Martin said he does not yet know the cost involved in the repair, but said he believes that it would be picked up by the S&R/Pilh as part of the construction contract. “The contractor builds it, but we are the overseers,” he said.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said that RIDOT had notified city officials about the alignment problem during their regular discussions about the status of the bridge project.
He said he is glad that they found the issue as part of a quality assurance check and feels fortunate that they are being aggressive about having it corrected.
That being said, Grebien noted that the latest glitch will lengthen the already delayed project, although he said it is too early to tell how the timetable will be affected. He said that while he knows it is frustrating for motorists, he feels that the delay can be handled from the public safety aspect. “I'm comfortable that we'll get though this,” he stated.
However, the mayor also said he is aware of the added hardship that any extra delays could put on local businesses that have already been struggling for the last two years with a loss of revenue and customers due to the detours and street closings related to the bridge project. He said the city has reached out to these businesses by offering modified tax payment plans due to their hardship.
“Clearly, this puts the businesses in a difficult position,” said Grebien. He said that an updated report from RIDOT that is expected by the end of this week will give a better idea of the delays involved. Based on that, he said he and his administration will be sitting down with RIDOT and other state officials to see what else could possibly be done in the way of providing financial relief.


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