According to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation official spearheading the project, the work to replace the White Church Bridge is actually nine days ahead of its projected schedule.
DOT resident engineer Mike Swift said the contractor has filed necessary submittals (work plans) in a timely fashion and department of transportation officials have approved those submittals.
The smooth-running exchange has allowed the contractor and subcontractors the opportunity to move efficiently through the first phase of construction. Mr. Swift said crews completed a portion of the demolition of the existing bridge (officially called Phase I) on Nov. 15.
That demolition included the removal of the bridge railing on the north side of the span, the sidewalk on that side of the bridge, pier caps, the piles that supported the piers, and the east and west bridge abutments.
“Everything north of that median barrier that you see on the bridge has been removed,” Mr. Swift said. The southern section of the old bridge remains intact.
More recently, crews have been driving metal sheeting into the river bottom as they prepare to build coffer dams; the dams allow work to take place in a dry environment within the river.
Mr. Swift said the sheeting must be in place by Feb. 1, which marks the start of a five-month restriction on in-water work. The resident engineer said work in the river is not allowed from Feb. 1 to June 1 because of environmental concerns — winter flounder migration takes place during that time period.
The DOT engineer added that crews have not encountered any unforeseen conditions while installing the sheeting.
“So far, everything’s been going in the ground pretty well,” he said.
Conditions along the bottom of the river presented some issues to work crews on the Barrington River Bridge project a few years ago. Those issues resulted in delays and cost overruns and some frustrations from local officials and residents.
Mr. Swift said there have not been many complaints about the White Church Bridge project. He said there was one resident who attended a recent community meeting about the bridge and questioned the traffic backups along Massasoit Avenue heading west.
Mr. Swift said the department commissioned a study of the traffic light at the intersection of Massasoit and County Road to see if there were any problems. Mr. Swift lives in Barrington and said he could recall backups along the bridge prior to the construction project.
“To me, it doesn’t seem any worse, but we’re doing a quick study. We’re going to see if the light is working optimally,” he added.
Some work to repair potholes on the bridge is also planned.
Mr. Swift said crews will cut out some damaged sections of the bridge roadway and replace them with a quick-setting concrete as opposed to dropping asphalt into the holes.
“We’re very concerned about getting through this project on time and on budget” and with as little impact as possible on residents and motorists, Mr. Swift said.