PAWTUCKET — How often do you get to go to an Interstate 95 bridge lighting party?
The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and the City of Pawtucket, along with support from the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call newspapers, invite the public to join in a celebration of the first lighting of the new Pawtucket River Bridge.
First Lights Pawtucket, happening Saturday, Sept. 7, from 5 to 9 p.m., will be the city's dedication and inaugural lighting of the iconic bridge, which carries I-95 over the Pawtucket River. Work is nearing completion on the $81 million structure, built under the supervision of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT).
Formerly known as Bridge 550, the new span is replacing the original bridge that was first built in 1959 as part of the I-95 highway construction. It is located in the city's downtown, next to the landmark Apex department store.
State and local officials say the new bridge will be a beacon for Pawtucket and a gateway for motorists, and also serves as a major link for Rhode Island's interstate system. The project represented a collaboration between RIDOT and a committee established by the city to design the new bridge. It includes architectural elements such as Art Deco-inspired sculptures that blend with the city's history and state-of-the art lighting that gives it a signature style.
The bridge lighting features a unique, color changing system of low voltage and long-life LED lights. The lighting will enhance visibility on the bridge and can also be color-coordinated for holidays and local cultural events.
First Lights Pawtucket gets under way at 5 p.m. with a festive block party taking place under the new span, at the corner of Taft Street and Jenks Way (public parking is available at the lots across from City Hall). There will be music, raffle prizes and other activities, with food trucks offering a variety of culinary choices and refreshments from Doherty's Irish Pub being sold.
In addition, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council (BVTC) is offering a special opportunity to witness the bridge lighting from a unique vantage point, aboard an authentic Chinese Dragon Boat. Six of the colorful ornate dragon boats will be part of the official ceremonies.
The Chinese Dragon Boats will be available for the public at 6 p.m. at the Festival Pier on School Street, Pawtucket, RI. Tickets for those who want to ride on the dragon boats to the bridge lighting ceremony are $10 per person and available by calling the BVTC at 401-724-2200 or for purchase online at www.blackstonevalleytourismcouncil.org .
The countdown leading to the bridge lighting begins at 7 p.m.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and other public officials and dignitaries will be on hand to witness the Pawtucket River Bridge as it is illuminated as a permanent gateway to the city and the state.
For more information on First Lights Pawtucket, contact the BVTC at 4012-724-2200.
Two days earlier, on Thursday, Sept. 5, RIDOT, along with federal, state and local officials, will host a bridge completion and naming ceremony. Officials will gather at 2 p.m. on Taft Street, beneath the Division Street Bridge, to celebrate the completion of the project and to unveil new bridge signage.
For additional information on the bridge project and completion ceremony, visit www.dot.ri.gov .