Despite the argument that a new Mill Cove Bridge on Tidewater Drive should be built to accommodate rising water levels, the Department of Public Works is moving ahead with the project as designed on the basis a redesign would push up costs and the delay could result in the loss of $1.6 million in low-cost financing.
Moreover, DPW Acting Director David Picozzi said Tuesday, if the bridge was raised in an effort to avert its flooding it would not prevent the flooding of Tidewater Drive to the north unless the roadbed was also elevated all the way to West Shore Road.
In that case, said Picozzi, “You’re literally building a dam.”
Earlier this month, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur withheld council action approving funding of a new bridge so that he could meet with Picozzi and Warwick Sewer Authority Executive Director Janine Burke, as well as Riverview resident George Shuster, who has questioned reconstruction of the existing bridge. In addition to observing that during moon high tides the water is only inches from the bridge deck and that it is flooded in some storms, Shuster argued a higher deck would make it easier for the passage of kayaks and canoes.
Picozzi said the meeting was good and “George was very understanding.”
As designed, the new bridge will offer slightly more clearance than the old one. Picozzi said a water main will be incorporated into the bridge, rather than slung underneath it, which should provide for an additional six- to eight-inch clearance.
“My main purpose is to get the public over that bridge,” said Picozzi.
The existing bridge has a weight restriction and RIPTA buses as well as heavier trucks are required to circumvent the bridge by Draper Avenue. Picozzi said a pre-bid conference with contractors has been conducted and that construction bids should be opened soon. His aim is to get the project completed during the current construction season.
A resident of Riverview, Shuster has contacted the administration several times in recent years about how the replacement bridge should be elevated. He was told nothing was being done since the city didn’t have the money for the project anyway.
When Shuster’s wife, Stephanie, saw a gathering of people at the bridge about two weeks ago, she stopped and was told it was a pre-bid conference with contractors. As for the money, the city had gained approval of its request for a $1.6 million loan from the Clean Water Finance Agency. Shuster immediately emailed city officials.
“The countervailing concern is that by spending $1.6 million on a bridge that is not high enough, you are wasting money and losing the opportunity to get it right,” Shuster wrote officials.
Ladouceur thought Shuster had a good point. He postponed council action on the $1.6 million and called for a meeting last Thursday.
In addition to access, Ladouceur wanted to ensure the bridge incorporates piping so sewers can be extended to Riverview as part of the Bayside project. The line would connect with the pumping plant on Tidewater close to the intersection with West Shore Road.
Yesterday, Ladouceur said the sewer pipe is part of the bridge project, which will serve to reduce costs for Bayside residents when they get sewers. But the councilman was critical of learning of the bids so late in the process. He said people affected and neighborhood groups should have been involved in the process. He would have liked to have seen the Buckeye Brook Coalition involved from the beginning.
“All of a sudden, it came up that they’re looking to float a $1.6 million bond,” he said.
Actually, the city will be borrowing the funds from the Clean Water Finance Agency if approved by the council.
Reached yesterday, Shuster was critical that insufficient study had been done before proceeding with the bridge now planned.
“They rejected the idea that they could build the bridge at the correct height now and then address the road elevation at some later date if needed. My point is that if you build a lower bridge now, you are ensuring that neither the bridge nor the road will be addressed again for a very long time. They essentially say that you can’t fix problem A because you really need to solve problems A and B, and you are not going to fix problem B now, so you may as well not solve problem A either,” he wrote in an email
He acknowledged the sewer line will be embedded in the bridge but questioned whether that is wise.
“The bridge contemplates one proposed sewer design. It is possible that the sewer project will be redesigned before construction on the sewers begins, and if that happens they will need to redesign how the sewers and the bridge connect. It would be better to build the sewers and the bridge at once, but the current bridge funding schedule does not allow for that, so they are moving ahead with the bridge and taking the risk on the sewer design,” he said.
Shuster also questioned the permitting of the bridge and impact on traffic during construction.