EAST PROVIDENCE — Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis and other dignitaries gathered twice Friday, Nov. 30, for ribbon-cutting ceremonies of two important stretches of road in East Providence.Friday morning, the group formally opened a 1.1-mile stretch of pavement on Waterfront Drive, which opens up about 285 acres of real state in city to commercial development along the Seekonk River.
The roadway directly links Warren Avenue to Dexter Road, and provides a catalyst for future business growth within a previously underutilized and underdeveloped section of East Providence through an improved connection to I-195. The project took roughly 18 months to complete.
“This is the kind of work we need to be doing in Rhode Island,” Mr. Lewis said in his remarks. “It’s a project with great economic benefit. And it’s one we can get in and get out quickly with the work being done in a quality manner.”
U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse were supposed to be in attendance Friday, but were unable to attend to the continued efforts on the parts of President Obama and Congress to solve impending federal budget issues.
“I’m frankly glad they’re not here,” Gov. Chafee quipped. “We as governors across the country want them to working on solving the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ rather than being at ceremonies like this.”The governor credited the multiple government agencies — environmental, transportation and economic development — for their work on the Waterfront Drive project.
Gov. Chafee added, “There are three ways to rebuild the economy: infrastructure, education and work-force development. We are here today to celebrate one of those things.”
The Waterfront Drive project was a partnership between city, state and federal departments, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Economic Development Administration (USEDA), RIDOT, and the City of East Providence.
Though not in attendance, both Sen. Reed and Sen. Whitehouse submitted comments on the project.
“The work completed at Waterfront Drive shows that Federal funding in partnership with State and local stakeholders can make a tangible difference in improving infrastructure and revitalizing neighborhoods,” said Sen. Reed, who helped secure $4.8 million in Federal funds to support the project. “This is a smart investment in putting more people to work to strengthen our community and bolster the local economy.”
Added Sen. Whitehouse, “Investing in East Providence’s transportation infrastructure improves safety and creates opportunities for economic development. This new roadway will help spur future business growth in the area, bolstering both the city and state economies. I commend RIDOT for completing this important phase of the Waterfront development plan.”
Out-going City Council President Bruce Rogers spoke on behalf of the city, lauding the project as a boon to future business development in East Providence. He also acknowledged the work done by city administrators Jeanne Boyle, Steve Coutu, Jim Moran and Erik Skadberg.
Wendy Dickinson of SD Concept Engineering, an automobile restoration and development business, was also in attendance Friday. Mrs. Dickinson, who along with her husband Scott own SD Concept, are moving their facility from West Warwick to East Providence, a direct effect of the Waterfront Drive development. Several classic and “muscle” cars from SD Concept were driven through a red ribbon held across a portion of Waterfront Drive to conclude the cremony.
RIDOT first built .4 miles of Waterfront Drive, from Bold Point Park to Warren Avenue in 2008. This latest 1.1-mile segment stretches from Warren Avenue to Dexter Road. RIDOT has future plans to build another two miles from Waterfront Drive in East Providence to Beverage Hill Avenue in Pawtucket, along the P&W Railroad line. In addition, RIDOT hopes to continue the project up to Newport Avenue in Pawtucket.
Like the Waterfront Drive project, Gov. Chafee recognized the economic impact the rapid completion of the 10-Mile River Bridges Project in city on North Broadway.
RIDOT Deputy Director Phillip Kydd presided over a ceremony formally opening up the bridges, which were finished well ahead of the original two-year schedule.
The bridges, in fact, took less than a year to be completely replaced. With a cost of just under $3 million, the price tag was a bit greater than the initial $2-plus million projections, but Mr. Kydd said it should considered a savings due to possible over-runs and other expenditures likely to occur.
Built in the early 1960s, the old bridges were rated structurally deficient, and RIDOT was in the process of awarding a replacement contract when they were closed in December 2011, according to a press release issued Friday.
Based on the early closure and conversations with the community, the Department approached D’Ambra and asked for proposals to reduce the closure time and the project was completed in just one construction season. The bridge replacement eliminates a lengthy detour for commercial traffic that was put into place when the bridge was posted at three tons in July 2011. Minor work may continue on the structures throughout the winter, with some landscaping work scheduled for early spring.
Mr. Kydd offered RIDOT’s appreciation to the staff and governing board of the adjacent Agawam Hunt Club, which was one of the business most inconvenienced by the project and also allowed access to the bridges area through its property during construction.