The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced in a press release that starting on Wednesday, March 1st it is beginning the process of removing the old Sakonnet River Bridge. The bridge was closed in 2012 with the opening of the new Sakonnet River Bridge.

“We’re pleased to inform citizens on both sides of the Sakonnet River that the long-overdue removal of the old bridge is finally underway,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. “We thank everyone ahead of time for their patience and any disruption the demolition activity may cause. Rest assured, we’ll work closely with our contractor to minimize the impact of this work and complete it as quickly as possible.”

This contract is the first of two contracts to remove the entire bridge, and will focus on the bridge’s deck and superstructure elements. This phase of the demolition involves 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.

Pre-demolition activities include the installation of protective netting to discourage migratory birds from nesting on the old bridge structure this season. RIDOT will then conduct a new engineering inspection of the bridge, and work with its contractor to finalize the demolition plan and schedule. Demolition activities are expected to begin this spring, and take approximately one year to complete with final completion of the project expected in summer 2018.

Working from the bridge deck as well as utilizing barges and cranes, the contractor will dismantle the bridge using mechanical methods. The work may cause noise disruptions, and brief local traffic impacts are anticipated on both sides of the bridge. The main construction access for the old bridge will be from the shoulder of Route 24 southbound. No significant long term travel lane closures are expected on the new bridge or Route 24 as part of this work.

Brief disruptions for marine traffic under the bridge are possible, but the main channel under the bridge will remain open at all times during the boating season through early October. The boat ramp located on Riverside Drive in Tiverton, built as part of the new bridge project, also will remain open but brief disruptions may be possible.

The old Sakonnet River Bridge was originally opened in 1956. As part of the project to build the new bridge, only a limited portion of the old bridge was removed 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.

The project for the first phase of demolition costs approximately $15 million. The second phase will address in-water and land-based substructure elements. The exact means of demolition for substructure are still being examined. 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 does not yet have a cost estimate for the second phase. RIDOT intends to begin work on the second contract as soon as possible after the completion of the first contract.

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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).