$2.8M bridge reconstruction project now underway

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The sound of an earth mover-excavator banging into heavy layers of road asphalt that’s in dire need of replacement echoed through the village of Simmonsville Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re underway,” Leo Gartsu, a resident engineer with the RI Department of Transportation, said about the $2.8 million project that Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena proudly says “won’t cost our town a nickel,” to completely replace the 70-year-old Simmonsville Bridge began Monday and will be completely finished in early 2019.

However, as Gartsu explained under Tuesday’s sparkling sun that created temperatures in the low 90s: “The bridge portion of the project is expected to be done by mid-November for traffic to pass through here.”

The target date, though, to complete the entire project, which includes new sidewalks and replacement of supporting systems at the out-of-date Simmonsville Bridge that was built back in 1948, will be finished by the spring of 2019.

On Tuesday, Northern Construction workers concentrated their efforts of installing a huge gate valve for the new waterline that will be built under what was the sidewalk of the bridge.

Formerly, as Gartsu explained Tuesday, the line flowed under the water.

“We’re going 17-feet in this phase,” Gartsu said while watching excavator operator Dennis Boudreau dig up more of the Simmonsville Avenue asphalt, as DOT Inspector Ryan Garnetto talked with Northern Construction workers who were installing the gate valve system.

Tuesday’s sun, in fact, made the blue portion of the valve and other pieces sparkle.

As one worker said during a much-needed water break: “New is always nicer.”

Gartsu said construction will be on going and eventually huge concrete jersey barriers will be placed at both sides of the bridge construction.

At one point Tuesday, a total of four vehicles came to a dead stop when they reached the Simmonsville Bridge, perhaps not realizing – as Gartsu noted – “this construction project is underway.”

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