PAWTUCKET – The $4.3 million project by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to replace the crumbling Conant Street Railroad Bridge, which carries Conant Street over Amtrak and the Providence and Worcester Railroads between Mineral Spring Avenue and Barton and Weeden streets, is moving forward.
As of this week, the new concrete bridge deck has been cured and installation of granite curbing and sidewalks has begun. Preparations are also under way for the installation of new water and gas mains.
As part of the project, the original two span steel-through-girder bridge, which was closed in 1989, was demolished. That paved the way for a new single span truss structure with steel floor beams, steel stringers, and concrete deck. The bridge has been fabricated with weathering steel which will develop a protective patina coating over the base steel and require less maintenance.
The new roadway will have two 13-foot travel lanes and two five-foot wide sidewalks that will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulation. The project will also have new fencing, guardrail and curbing, minor drainage and utility improvements, and installation of new signage and striping.
The DOT will also repave most of Conant Street and reconstruct the sidewalks from the east abutment to just short of the Mineral Spring Avenue intersections.
The new bridge has been designed to carry all modern truck loads and has a design life of between 75 and 100 years.
The project, which is being funded through a federally funded construction contract with Cardi Corporation, is supposed to be completed before the end of the year.
It took more than 20 years to get the project started. The long delay in replacing the bridge was due to several complicating factors, including the fact that Amtrak owns the right of way under the bridge, which created insurance indemnification and liability issues.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the state's Congressional delegation, as well as Mayor Donald R. Grebien, ended up pushing for legislation that finally led to a resolution with Amtrak. The legislation allowed for all of the railroad bridges in Rhode Island in which Amtrak owns the right of way under, to be indemnified all at once instead of singularly.
Grebien has said that the reopening of the Conant Street Bridge will provide a long-missing link vital to the city’s economic future and will be a boon to businesses, especially in the Conant Street Industrial Park area which is being evaluated for commuter rail development in the planning stages for the Barton Street area.