Four years after being replaced and sixty years after first opening to the public, the old Sakonnet River Bridge may finally be removed.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced on Tuesday, October 11th in a press release that it has initiated the process of selecting a contractor to remove the vacant old Sakonnet River Bridge across the Sakonnet River between Portsmouth and Tiverton.

“The removal of the old Sakonnet River Bridge is long overdue, and the delay in demolishing it is one of the legacy problems we inherited from the previous administration,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said in the release. “We’re eager to begin this work and remove this visual eyesore from the Sakonnet River.”

The advertising process for contractors to submit bids will last approximately one month, with the bid opening scheduled for November 2. RIDOT expects to award a contract for the $23.6 million project by the end of the year, with work commencing in Spring 2017.

This contract is the first of two contracts to remove the entire bridge, and will focus on the bridge’s deck and superstructure elements. Once work begins, the removal of the superstructure is expected to take approximately one year, and RIDOT will make every effort to limit the impact of the work on the summer boating season. The project will be completed in Spring 2018.

The bridge was originally opened in 1956 and closed upon the opening of the new Sakonnet River Bridge in 2012. Only a limited portion of the bridge was removed during construction of the new bridge, with the majority of demolition planned for a separate contract. However necessary marine studies on the potential impact of threatened and endangered species had not been completed and environmental permits had not been secured. To avoid further delay, RIDOT chose to split the project into two contracts in order to expedite the removal of the bridge superstructure.

This phase of the demolition will include the removal of 17 spans between the bridge’s piers, a total of 2,178 feet. This includes approximately 6.2 million pounds of steel and 2,700 cubic yards of concrete. The selected contractor will provide RIDOT with a detailed work plan and schedule for the demolition. Working from the bridge deck as well as utilizing barges and cranes, the contractor will dismantle the bridge using mechanical methods such that there will be no impact from bridge debris entering the water.

The second demolition contract will address in-water and land-based substructure elements. The exact means of demolition are still being examined, and RIDOT is considering using controlled explosive demolition, as it did for a portion of the former railroad trestle adjacent to the old bridge, and for the old Jamestown Bridge. RIDOT intends to begin work on the second contract as soon as possible after the completion of the first contract.

Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).