With Route 95 as a backdrop, Governor Lincoln Chafee and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) director Michael P. Lewis announced Friday the start of a new bridge preservation program to improve maintenance efforts for bridges on I-95 between Providence and Warwick.
Chafee and Lewis announced the first bridge preservation contract for $4.9 million was awarded to Cardi Corporation. The work, which is scheduled to be completed this fall, will allow for the preservation of 13 bridges between the Route 4 exchange and Exit 16 over the Pawtuxet River. All are within Warwick.
The goal is to perform maintenance on 30 bridges by 2014; the remaining 17 bridges will be contracted later this year and work will occur next year. Maintenance work includes repairing steel, concrete patching, repainting, replacement of deck joints and preventing corrosion.
Lewis explained that this contract signifies a change of focus for Rhode Island infrastructure. What we are talking about today is awarding a contract for bridge preservation, not bridge replacement,” said Lewis, who compared bridge preservation to a hole in a boat. “This is about fixing the hole.”
The cost of the program is being funded though the department’s operating budget.
A department spokeswoman said yesterday that the intention is to advertise for the maintenance work on the remaining 17 bridges this fall. The projected cost of those projects is $5 million.
Lewis explained that in terms of Rhode Island’s 780 bridges, 160 are considered structurally deficient and another 150 are a step away from that distinction. He said that by maintaining bridges that are sound, in addition to fixing problem bridges, the state would be able to keep bridges in good condition for a longer period of time.
“You can count on me to put our resources into that smart way of maintaining our infrastructure,” said Chafee. “The smart approach is to do the maintenance.”
Chafee explained that repairs to the Sakonnet Bridge cost the state $167 million as opposed to the $4.9 million required for maintenance on 13 I-95 bridges.
“It’s spending a few dollars now to extend the service life of our bridges and get ahead of deterioration,” said Lewis.
“You can keep these bridges indefinitely if you keep up maintenance,” added Lewis.
While none of the 30 proposed bridges are at the point where they need massive repairs, there are dozens of bridges across the state that do. Lewis said that in the month of March alone, the state needed to close just under a dozen bridges for repairs. That repair work would continue along with the maintenance project.
“This bridge preservation program will pay numerous dividends: maintaining the structural integrity and safety of our bridges, putting Rhode Islanders in the construction industry to work, and avoiding the massive costs and traffic disruption caused by expensive replacement projects,” said Chaffee in a press release. “This program aligns well with our ongoing efforts to implement a more proactive, fiscally responsible infrastructure plan in Rhode Island.”
Lewis explained that bridge maintenance is not just a Rhode Island problem, but also a national one. Bridges are damaged not only by being traveled on, but by debris, salt and water coming from above and below the structure.
“This program will allow RIDOT to undertake preventative maintenance and repairs in a way we have not done before. We expect over the longterm it will save money by reducing the number and frequency of more costly rehabilitation projects,” said Lewis in a press release.
Once the bridge preservation project is complete for the proposed section of I-95, RIDOT plans to expand the projects to other highway areas.