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PAWTUCKET â€“ The project to replace the crumbling Pawtucket River Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Seekonk River between Exits 27 and 28, is now expected to be completed some time during the first half of August.
Thatâ€™s the latest estimated completion date for the $81 million bridge project, which began in the fall of 2010.
But before that, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is getting ready to meet its next Pawtucket River Bridge-related project goal: The reopening of the permanent Exit 27 southbound (Downtown Pawtucket) lane, which was closed last month for approximately six weeks.
The temporary ramp for Exit 27 southbound was closed on March 18 to construct a permanent ramp on its final alignment, which will be opened some time next month, said RIDOT spokesman Bryan Lucier.
â€śIn May, southbound traffic will move onto the new structure thatâ€™s under way now and that will be the final place for southbound traffic,â€ť said Lucier. â€śThat will allow us to re-open Exit 27 and the Main Street on ramp that has been closed for the past several months.â€ť
â€śThere will be a gap between southbound and northbound so what weâ€™re planning to do is install a jersey barrier in between where the northbound lane is going to be and where the southbound lane is now,â€ť he said.
The work over the next few weeks to reopen the permanent Exit 27 southbound will include concrete parapets, waterproofing and paving. Barrier installation and gravel placement and grading will also continue on both approach areas in preparation to pave and open the new section of highway.
Meanwhile, the entire bridge project is on schedule to open this summer.
â€śFinal completion will be in August and thatâ€™s when all traffic will be in its final position,â€ť Lucier said.
RIDOT is building the new Pawtucket River Bridge, known as Bridge 550, in phases so there will be minimal impact to highway traffic and no reduction in travel lanes. The first span of the new bridge was opened to northbound traffic last April, allowing for RIDOT to eliminate the 18-ton weight limit for I-95 North that had been imposed.
This past September, RIDOT opened the second of three highway structures that make up the Pawtucket River Bridge replacement project. This was a significant milestone that allowed RIDOT to fully lift the bridgeâ€™s 18-ton weight limit. This structure, built to carry I-95 northbound traffic, is temporarily hosting I-95 South.
According to RIDOTâ€™s website, work continues on other bridges near the Pawtucket River Bridge. RIDOT currently has closed sections of Taft Street and Pleasant Street where they pass under the highway bridge. These will remain closed for the remainder of the project.
Now that traffic has been shifted from the old I-95 South bridge, RIDOT will focus its attention on the demolition and reconstruction of a new highway bridge in the same footprint.
Once all of the highway traffic bridges are shifted to their permanent locations, the first bridge that was opened will be turned into a collector/distributor road for on-ramp traffic from George Street and off-ramp traffic at Exit 28 (School Street).