The state transportation department doesn’t expect to start replacing the Massasoit Avenue bridge near the “White Church” over the Barrington River until mid-summer next year – about 15 to 18 months later than originally planned.
If that occurs, completion of the new bridge won’t be until mid-2015 – after two years of construction.
“We’re optimistic we can advertise the project (for construction bids) late this summer,” said David Fish, managing engineer for bridge engineering for the RI Department of Transportation (RIDOT). “We expect to begin work by mid-2013.”
As stated previously, said Fish, traffic will not stop during the work.
“We’ll be keeping two lanes open at all times,” he said, “with the new span to be built just north (about 24 feet) of the existing bridge and open to traffic by the spring of 2014.”
Fish said the new RIDOT timetable is contingent on getting approvals soon from several other agencies, including the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“All those agencies are in the process of reviewing plans for the bridge,” Fish said, with approvals anticipated in the near future.
Barrington officials were warned by Fish that bridge work could be delayed because of changes preferred by the town for the bridge, particularly the addition of two more feet of clearance over the water and other environmental concerns. See Patch story. That has come to pass.
Of particular concern, said Fish, is the impact of construction on wildlife, such as the rare diamondback terrapins in Hundred Acre Cove north of the bridge, winter flounder and shad.
To lessen and, perhaps, eliminate any impact on the river bottom, he said, RIDOT will be erecting “steel sheeting in the river to separate worker” from the wildlife and to “not disrupt the river bottom.”
DEM also has asked RIDOT to work with Barrington on reducing vessel speeds in Hundred Acre Cove. Fish said that will involve Harbormaster Ray Sousa and the Harbor Commission.
“We want to try to move the 5 mph wake zone farther south in the cove,” Fish said.
Moving the zone farther south is expected to lessen the possibility of boats running over the terrapins, which tend to inhabit the northern part of the cove – a prime environmental concern.
RIDOT Director Michael Lewis also met last Tuesday morning with a variety of advocates calling for making the bridge more bicycle-friendly -- especially for students who use it for going back and forth to Barrington High School within sight of the bridge.
Tim Faulkner of Barrington, one advocate, said: “This bridge will be here for 50 to 100 years. We want to explore all options for bike traffic before it is too late.”
Making the bridge as accessible and usable as possible for bikers is the goal, he said. Among the ideas suggested are the erection of warning signs for motorists about bicycle traffic and striping on the bridge to delineate a bike path – especially as bikers and motorists near the ends of the bridge at intersections with County Road and Massasoit Avenue.
Fish said Lewis has asked him to coordinate a meeting with town officials and Faulkner to try to incorporate as many ideas as possible into the design.
“Tim had a bunch of good ideas,” Fish said. “We want to incorporate as many ideas as possible without affecting the overall scope of the project.”
Faulkner said he anticipates another meeting to be held soon with RIDOT and Barrington officials and other bicycle representatives.
The principal plan for the replacement bridge calls for it to be two-feet higher and one-lane wider with low density lighting to minimize glare, navigational lights, and no-fishing signs only on the center span of the five spans to be built over the water.
The additional height of the bridge is expected to boost boat traffic in the cove even as it improves access for emergency and rescue boats at high tides – the primary reason the Town Council wants a two-foot higher bridge.