While lawmakers and the Department of Transportation have been focused on the condition of the state’s highway bridges, Rep. Joseph McNamara is pressing to find the funds to repair a foot bridge that has been impassable since Super Storm Sandy.
The bridge serves as the link between a causeway and the breakwater off Salter Memorial Grove. The breakwater is a popular fishing and walking location and the first access to bay fishing with parking south of Providence, says the legislator.
McNamara is looking for the Department of Environmental Management, which has control of the causeway and breakwater, to repair the bridge or fill the gap between the causeway and breakwater. On Thursday, he visited the area with Lisa Primiano, DEM planning director, and other DEM personnel. He also plans to engage Grover Fugate, director of the Coastal Resources Management Council, as any work is expected to require that group’s assent.
McNamara doesn’t see leaving the situation as it is as a good option.
As it is, visitors must scramble over slippery rocks when they are exposed or wade through the water when the rising tide covers them. McNamara can imagine a situation in which a family with children is trapped by the rising tide on the breakwater, or worse, loses their balance and falls into the water.
His fear of a drowning is not far-fetched.
To his knowledge, McNamara said three people frequenting the causeway and breakwater have drowned, the most recent being 10 or 12 years ago.
Primiano said in a telephone interview the request was considered by the department’s public access committee, but not listed as a priority because of the number of projects to which DEM is committed. She said Salter Grove is state property, however, according to an agreement, the city has control and responsibility for upkeep of the site. That agreement does not include the causeway or breakwater.
Asked about the situation and whether the city might come forward to fix the bridge, the city’s principal planner Richard Crenca said he was contacted one or two years ago about the matter but, “we don’t have any plans to do any repairs there because we’re not leasing that piece.”
Primiano noted that an extensive study of the park, causeway, and breakwater was completed several years ago and no action was taken at that time. The causeway was built during construction of the breakwater and left after the breakwater’s completion as a means of providing public access to the water.
Primiano said her department would take a “fresh look” at the situation with the thought of doing a “short-term or modest fix.”
McNamara isn’t looking for something extensive, least of all “another $100,000 study.” He pointed out that the bridge lasted about a decade before Super Storm Sandy came along. Doing nothing, he said, is at best a nuisance and at worse could result in a tragedy.