Exterior construction work on the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center (Newport Gateway Center) has been temporarily stopped due to soil tests that showed results of arsenic, lead and at least one petroleum byproduct.

“Work at the site has stopped temporarily due to the findings of some soil samples that were taken to ensure proper disposal of any excess soil from the construction site,” Barbara Polichetti, Director of Public Relations for Rhode Island Public Transit Authority told What’sUpNewp on Tuesday afternoon.

The roughly $6 million project, which is being funded by a 90-percent federal grant with a 10-percent match from the City of Newport, began in January and involves replacing the old canopy covering with a permanent roof. Work has been reportedly been stopped for several weeks.

Sidewalks and parking areas will also be repaved and on-site drainage will be improved in order to comply with Newport’s progressive sewer codes. Much of this was expected to be accomplished by adding landscaped areas or “rain gardens” which are said to be as attractive as they are practical. There will also be improved signage and lighting.

“In four initial tests, two returned with levels of arsenic slightly above the state’s reportable level for commercial sites. Subsequent testing showed lower arsenic levels but reportable levels of lead and at least one petroleum byproduct (total petroleum hydrocarbons). Health risks are minimal and limited to those with direct exposure to the soil.  There is no determined health risk to the general public – whether it be people walking by the site or nearby property owners.   The City, as the property owner, and RIPTA, as the chief operator, are working in compliance with the Rhode Island Department of Management (DEM) regarding the proper management of this site and the proper disposal of any excess soil from the location. ” Polichetti told What’sUpNewp.

“These findings – which our consultants and state officials say are consistent with older urban areas and in particular, the Newport waterfront — require proper soil management at the site.  What that means in layman’s terms is that there will be dust control measures and any excess soil removed from the site will need to be disposed of through the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation.  RIPTA will take the added step of air quality monitoring.  Most of the dust mitigation procedures were already in place as part of good construction site management. Since constructions workers will come in direct contact with the soil, some may choose to wear gloves or lightweight protective suits in accordance with their own health and safety plan,” Polichetti said.

While some work has been halted on the project, Polichetti tells us that the project is “moving forward with steel fabrication, concrete forms and so forth” off-site.

While on-site work is expected to resume shortly, the soil tests and delay are expected to effect the original completion date of June 2017.

“This will probably affect the completion date and push it forward, but we don’t know exactly by how much yet.  RIPTA will continue to work with the City of Newport to minimize disruption to the community”, Polichetti confirmed with What’sUpNewp.

Polichetti does tell us that the current estimates indicate that the project is still within their budget.

What’sUpNewp reached out to the Mayor and City Manager for comment on Monday, both did not respond to our request for comment.

Background On Project

Opened in 1988, the Gateway was already suffering from wear and tear when it was hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  During the hurricane, the canopy “sails” were ripped by high winds and flood waters forced the temporary closure of the facility.  When the water receded, it became apparent that damage was also done to the sidewalks and paved parking areas.

Although the facility continues to be used, the damage suffered during the storm left the Gateway facility in poor condition.  Without the protection of overhead covering, the sidewalks continue to deteriorate and are pitted, cracked and crumbling.  The severe winter of 2015 exacerbated this problem.

Since then, RIPTA has been awarded federal funding to not only repair the Gateway Center but also make it more resilient to future storms  While the federal funds will cover 90-percent of the roughly $6 million project, the City of Newport is providing the 10-percent matching local funds.

In the months since funding was secured, RIPTA worked with the city, community residents and its consultants to incorporate new soil and structural testing into the plans as well as feedback from the City Council’s Architectural Review Committee.

The transit authority had Northeast Collaborative Architects, with offices in Newport, RI, lead a team that has the expertise to address federal, state and local interests in design specifics such as drainage, green infrastructure, sustainability, architectural detail and signage for passengers and visitors.

The design as drafted is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and includes raised roofline cupolas, pedestrian safety features, improved signage and a taxi waiting, and environmentally sustainable elements such as a “rain garden” to help collect storm water onsite and improve drainage.

The Gateway is a popular summer and fall attraction, so one of RIPTA’s goals was to not have construction during the 2016 tourist season.  The successful bidder for the construction contractor was expected to complete the project by June 2017.

RIPTA used a Brooks Act Procurement process to contract for an architectural and engineering work.  Under this process, a selection team with representatives from the City of Newport, RIDOT, and RIPTA reviewed the bidders’ qualifications.  Six bidders vied for the work.  The selection team chose DHK, a firm out of Boston, MA, with direct experience in retrofitting historic transit stations. DHK (www.dhkinc.com)   will be working with a team of subcontractors with significant local track record. Work specified to include review of the site’s drainage, a structural review of the steel holding the existing canopy, architectural design of a new roof, ADA compliance review and development, and landscape design.

Related Stories

  1. January 9, 2017 – Starting Today: Bus Stops at Newport Gateway Center Will Be Temporarily
  2. December 2, 2016 – VIDEO: Newport Transportation and Visitors Center (Gateway Center) Exterior Renovations Update
  3. November 29, 2016 – Improvements to Gateway Center Should Be Completed by June
  4. November 20, 2016 – Community Forum to be Held on Planned Improvements to the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center
  5. December 3, 2015 – RI Receives Additional $4.3 Million to Upgrade Newport’s Gateway Center

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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).