EAST PROVIDENCE — A pipe replacement project being overseen by the state expected to significantly impact traffic on one of the city's two main arteries for quite a while was delayed at the …
EAST PROVIDENCE — A pipe replacement project being overseen by the state expected to significantly impact traffic on one of the city's two main arteries for quite a while was delayed at the last minute.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation told city officials at the 11th hour it was delaying its plan to replace water pipes on Pawtucket Avenue in front of East Providence High School between Taunton and Waterman Aves.
The project is expected to take about a month to complete whenever shovels actually take to ground.
According to District Director of Facilities Chris Murphy, the rationale presented by representatives of the start was "to allow more time for excavated areas to settle under the weight of traffic."
At the September 12 meeting of the School Committee, Superintendent Dr. Sandra Forand and Murphy provided the board and the public a few details about the effort, which had already started with some minor preparatory construction and traffic impact in the days leading up to the forum.
Murphy told the body the improvements to Pawtucket Avenue were set to begin in earnest on Monday, Sept. 18. The director said new water lines are being installed. The road is "owned" and maintained by the state. East Providence does not maintain the street in any way.
However, at a follow-up meeting between local and state officials on Thursday, Sept. 14, RIDOT said it was postponing the start of the project until at least the middle of October when in its estimation the "weather will be more stable," according to the recollection of EPHS Principal Bill Black, who was among the city/school administrators in attendance.
Murphy forwarded an explanation from the engineering firm hired by RIDOT, which read as follows: "The reason for postponing the final paving is to allow more time for our excavations to settle under the weight of traffic. This will provide a better final paved surface.
"We normally build this timeframe into the construction schedule but we did not in this instance in an effort to complete all work before the start of school. Since we weren’t able to complete work before school started, we took this opportunity to reconsider the schedule for the betterment of the project and the final paved surface."
When the project does come to fruition, as was expected to be the case earlier this week, Pawtucket Avenue at East Providence High School and the entrance to the Shoppers Town plaza will become a two-lane road, down from four, with the installation of jersey barriers on each side of the extremely busy street: one lane headed north and the other south.
Murphy said neither School Department nor the city had, or will have, much say in how the project is being conducted. RIDOT did, though, acquiesce to the district's request to not start it the week of September 3, the first full week of classes at the high school and around East Providence.
Murphy explained, city and department officials were "pretty much going by the playbook put out by the state." Once the location is excavated and the pipes replaced, the concrete used to encase the area then must be allowed to cure for between 14-18 before final asphalt paving can place, he added.
Congestion likely created at both "rush hours" due to the lane restrictions will have a trickle down effect on the time busses reach their destinations both in the morning and the afternoon. Most of the district's vehicles begin their days picking up and dropping off high school students, then make the switch to the middle and elementary schools thereafter.