PAWTUCKET â€” The section of Interstate 95 that spans the Pawtucket River Bridge used to be so flat that it hardly seemed like a â€śbridgeâ€ť at all when one drove over it. Yet, with the new construction, southbound motorists are reporting a noticeable â€śdipâ€ť or decline as they cross the bridge on I-95 near the Comfort Inn on George Street.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation officials have noticed this unevenness as well, and the contractor for the project is reportedly planning to correct the issue in the spring.
Bryan Lucier, a spokesperson for RIDOT, said the dip in this stretch of roadway has been brought to the attention of the contractor and the firm is planning to fix it. However, he said that since the asphalt plants have mostly closed down for the winter, this job wonâ€™t be scheduled until sometime this spring.
â€śThis is still an ongoing project, with lanes still to be moved,â€ť noted Lucier. He said there is one more phase of shifting travel lanes that needs to occur before the bridgeâ€™s final completion.
The project to replace the crumbling Pawtucket River Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Seekonk River between Exits 27 and 28, began in the fall of 2010. As part of the $81 million project, a total of nine bridges will be rehabilitated.
RIDOT is building the new Pawtucket River Bridge, known as Bridge 550, in phases so there will be minimal impact to highway traffic and no reduction in travel lanes. The first span of the new bridge was opened to northbound traffic last April, allowing for RIDOT to eliminate the 18-ton weight limit for I-95 North that had been imposed.
In September, RIDOT opened the second of three highway structures that make up the Pawtucket River Bridge replacement project. This was a significant milestone that allowed RIDOT to fully lift the bridgeâ€™s 18-ton weight limit. This structure, built to carry I-95 northbound traffic, is temporarily hosting I-95 South.
According to RIDOTâ€™s website, work continues on other bridges near the Pawtucket River Bridge. RIDOT currently has closed sections of Taft Street and Pleasant Street where they pass under the highway bridge. These will remain closed for the remainder of the project.
Now that traffic has been shifted from the old I-95 South bridge, RIDOT will focus its attention on the demolition and reconstruction of a new highway bridge in the same footprint. That bridge is scheduled to open in the summer of 2013.
Once all of the highway traffic bridges are shifted to their permanent locations, the first bridge that was opened will be turned into a collector/distributor road for on-ramp traffic from George Street and off-ramp traffic at Exit 28 (School Street).