Extensive discussions between town officials, a private contractor and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) appear to have resulted a plan that will allow a lane of traffic to pass …
Extensive discussions between town officials, a private contractor and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) appear to have resulted a plan that will allow a lane of traffic to pass over Silver Creek bridge at all times, including when the bridge is torn down and replaced next summer.
Despite widespread opposition to their plan, DOT had held steadfast for most of 2019, announcing several times that the only way to replace the Route 114 bridge over tiny Silver Creek was to close the entire bridge to traffic, tear it down and rebuild it, in the span of two to three months next summer.
A Plan B has been found.
As announced by DOT in a press release late Wednesday afternoon, they believe they can keep traffic flowing over the bridge in two directions, or in one direction only — southbound — through every phase of the project.
The first phase of construction will include utility relocation and the permanent relocation of sewer and water lines taking place from now to Feb. 15, 2020. During this phase, while there will be temporary lane shifts and splits, traffic will continue uninterrupted in both directions over the bridge.
During the second phase, from Feb. 16, 2020, until June 19, 2020, DOT will close half the bridge and keep one lane and the sidewalk open. The one lane will accommodate traffic in one direction only. The opposite direction of traffic will be detoured around the work zone. During this phase, DOT will demolish and rebuild the closed half of the bridge completely and relocate utilities to their permanent location.
The third phase of construction, from June 19 to July 5, 2020, DOT will reopen the bridge lanes and sidewalks to allow uninterrupted travel in both directions.
The last phase of bridge construction, between July 6, 2020, and Aug. 28, 2020, includes demolition and replacement of the opposite side of the bridge, with one lane of traffic allowed in one direction again. DOT is offering incentives to the contractor for an earlier completion of the bridge work during this phase.
Final construction activities are scheduled to be completed between Aug. 28, 2020, and Oct. 16, 2020. Traffic will remain open in both directions while final paving, striping and landscaping take place. The additional cost for this plan is $300,000. This amount is within the contingency budget for the project.
The change of plan will likely cause a sigh of relief throughout the Bristol merchant community. News that the bridge would be closed for months generated opposition from both the business community and private citizens earlier this year. They argued that a two-month blockade of the district’s main artery — scheduled to begin immediately after the 2020 Fourth of July holiday and to conclude prior to the start of a new school year — would be devastating to businesses that rely on sales during peak summer months.
Said Bristol Town Administrator Steven Contente Wednesday afternoon, “We've been working collectively with the governor's office and DOT Director Peter Alviti's office. Communication has been ongoing. I'm pleased that they have designed a winning plan. Thank you to the governor's office and the DOT for sticking with this, and continuing the dialogue.
“For me, public safety has always been paramount, and I am very happy and pleased that this plan will maintain an emergency route over Silver Creek.”
Some in town are already reacting to the news.
"I am truly relieved and thrilled that the powers that be worked together to make this happen," said Susan Battle, executive director at Linden Place. "So many people find us by driving through town or walking by. I couldn't help but think it was going to a really rough year if they closed that bridge."