Simmonsville Bridge reopens with fanfare

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There’s been a lot of road construction in town during the last year, but after months of construction the Simmonsville Avenue Bridge is now open for traffic once again.

At a special ribbon cutting ceremony held on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation, state and local officials celebrated the reopening of the bridge that spans Simmonsville Brook which had been closed since July. The $2.8 million dollar project came in on budget and was completed ahead of schedule.

“They brought this project in on budget and four months ahead of schedule. This is a project that normally have taken two years to build, but the new DOT with our new project management capabilities built it in eight months,” said Peter Alviti, Director of the DOT.

According to the department, had conventional construction methods been used and the bridge remained open to the traffic, it would have taken two full construction seasons to complete. By coordinating the closure of the bridge, DOT was able to quickly replace the structure.

“That allowed us to do some new techniques, we used accelerated bridge construction on this. Our consultants on this designed it in a way that we could use accelerated construction using precast components and for the first time we’re using a fiber reinforced composite material for the reinforcing rods instead of steel,” said Alviti. “That will allow this bridge to stay functional for a lot longer period of time and the taxpayers will get a good amount of use out of the investment that they made.”

The 70 year old bridge was structurally deficient according to Alviti with a load rating of only ten tons for trucks. The bridge carries approximately 6,600 vehicles a day, and is typically used as a direct connection between Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Pike.

The project included premanufactured bridge units installed side by side. DOT also used a reinforced soil foundation system that avoided the need for deep foundations and provides a smoother transition from the bridge to the roadway surface.

“I have to tell you, I’m truly amazed at how this bridge was rebuilt and redesigned in such a short amount of time,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena. “I along with other members of the Johnston government are very grateful that we can rest knowing that this bridge is now safe for vehicle and pedestrian traffic.”

Polisena complimented Alviti, Governor Gina Raimondo, and District 1 Councilman Richard DelFino III for their leadership during the completion of the project. He and Alviti also thanked the residents and businesses in the neighborhood for their patience.

“We understand the inconvenience construction can have on people’s daily lives and are committed to thinking outside the box and employ methods that allow us to do our work in the most efficient manner possible,” said Alviti.

While the roadway is now reopened to traffic, additional components of the project still need to be completed, including sidewalks and landscaping. DOT hopes to complete as much as possible before the winter, with all tasks expected to be finished by spring.

“This brand new, safe bridge is needed by the residents of the area who travel back and forth daily to work, to their homes, as well as picking up their children. This project in its magnitude was done in such an expeditious manner it’s unbelievable,” said Polisena. “This is when the state government and local government works, and it works really well and we’re very, very happy.”

Polisena added that he was sure that there were many bridges that may be unsafe in the state.

“Am I saying that people are in danger? I can’t say that for sure. But I’d rather travel over this bridge now that I did maybe eight to ten months ago,” said Polisena.

Alviti said there was a combination of reasons as to why it took so long for the bridge to be repaired, including political, financial and planning issues. He said that RhodeWorks is in its third year and in ten years the state will have a completely renewed infrastructure that will allow for further economic development. He added that of the main goals of RhodeWorks is to not only to fix the roads and bridges but to bring with it the economic activity that goes along with a good transportation infrastructure.

“A number of people live here, and the diversion that you would have to take if this bridge was left to continuously deteriorate to a point where we would have to close it, it would disrupt the lives and the businesses that are along this road,” he said. “You multiply that by 1,100 projects that we’re going to be doing in the next ten years that if we didn’t do would have the same result throughout the state. There would be congestion, gridlock, and economically, companies that look at a state in terms of making investments in it and moving to it, look at the infrastructure and the transportation system to move their goods and employees.”

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