PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Repairs to a critical Rhode Island bridge that was partially shut down over safety concerns last month could include the demolition of the span, state transportation officials said Monday.
Peter Alviti, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, said all options are being considered, including the possibility of a complete rebuild of the bridge that carries Interstate 195 over the Seekonk River from Providence to East Providence and serves as a key gateway to Providence.
He didn’t give any cost estimate but said the repairs would be completed as quickly as safely possible.
“We have several consultants that are assessing the condition of the full bridge structure,” Alviti said. “What they find will determine the scope of the work that we need to do to correct any deficiencies on the bridge.”
Alviti said there are several options available.
“It could be a repair of the existing structure, although extensive. It could be a reconstruction of various components of the bridge structure, or it could be a complete rebuild of the entire bridge,” he said.
The goal is to get traffic flowing as quickly as possible, in phases if necessary, Alviti said. He said the state will give the project priority over all other transportation projects.
He said testing of tension rods has begun, including forensic and chemical analysis.
“We are preparing for all contingencies in terms of funding,” he said.
Gov. Dan McKee also sought to reassure those who depend on the bridge.
McKee said everything that can be done is being done to speed the project along.
“Expert engineers are doing a thorough review of the bridge. That work is ongoing as we speak. We want Rhode Islanders to know that the direction we take with this project will be driven by the facts,” McKee told reporters at an afternoon news conference.
The bridge carries nearly 100,000 vehicles every day.
The sudden westbound closure in mid-December wreaked havoc on traffic, turning a 40-to-45-minute drive into several hours. stranding commuters for hours and sending others veering off their normal path. Some schools closed and held classes remotely.
Westbound traffic was directed to two lanes on the eastbound side. State authorities described the problem as a critical structural failure.
Built in 1969, the westbound portion of the Washington Bridge was rated as “poor” according to the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory released in June.
The overall rating of a bridge is based on whether the condition of any one of its individual components — the deck, superstructure, substructure or culvert, if present — is rated poor or below.
Alviti had warned of the bridge’s poor condition in a 2019 grant application to rehabilitate the bridge and make improvements to traffic flow, writing that it was “nearing a permanent state of disrepair.”
The bridge has an inspection frequency of 24 months, according to federal data. State officials said it was last inspected in July.
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