2005-09-22 / Front Page

Say goodbye to the old J’town Bridge

Work to demolish bridge begins Monday
By Donna K. Drago

Say goodbye to the old J’town Bridge

Work is expected to begin next week on the demolition of the old Jamestown Bridge, more than a decade after its use was suspended because a new bridge was built. Photo by Jeff McDonough Work is expected to begin next week on the demolition of the old Jamestown Bridge, more than a decade after its use was suspended because a new bridge was built. Photo by Jeff McDonough Demolition is scheduled to begin next week on the old Jamestown Bridge. The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $19.45 million contract to Cashman Equipment of Boston.

The bridge has been abandoned since the opening of the new Jamestown Bridge in the fall of 1992.

Kazem Farhoumand, DOT’s deputy chief engineer, said that Cashman, the low bidder on the work, has “extensive experience in heavy marine demolition and construction,” and that they will also use sub-contractors on the job “with other expertise.”

Demolition of the old Jamestown Bridge will not be completed until 2007, officials say. Photo by Sam Bari Demolition of the old Jamestown Bridge will not be completed until 2007, officials say. Photo by Sam Bari First on the agenda is preparation of the site, Farhoumand said, adding that in order for heavy equipment to access the bridge from both sides, vegetation will have to be cleared and roads will have to be regraded to accept the large trucks. This work is slated to begin on Monday, “hopefully.” Farhoumand said.

Cashman will set up a field office on the North Kingstown side, between the new and old bridges, which they will use until the contracted completion date of late April 2007, Farhoumand said.

In the early phases of work, the old emergency waterline, which has been used to pump water from North Kingstown to Jamestown during periods of drought, will be removed.

A new contract for a portable emergency waterline, which can be deployed as needed from a trailer, is scheduled to be awarded at next Monday night’s Town Council meeting, according to Michael Gray, the town’s deputy public works chief. When water needs to be pumped to the island, the new line will be laid across the north-facing walk on the new Jamestown bridge, Gray noted.

In the early phases of the work, all the electrical conduits, lines and lighting left on the old bridge will also be removed. Then the work will continue with removal of the rails and concrete decking, Farhoumand said.

Once everything is removed from the bridge, the steel across the center span will be removed using “low-charge explosives” that will essentially sever the girders and cause them to drop into the bay, according to Farhoumand.

“This won’t be like in the action movies,” Farhoumand said about the explosives, which are designed to melt rather that blast apart the steel girders and the concrete piers.

Still, because of safety concerns, the new Jamestown Bridge will be closed for periods during the times that explosives are used.

Farhoumand said that the DOT will notify everyone about future closings “weeks in advance,” and that lighted signs will be posted on area highways to alert motorists about possible delays.

By contract, Cashman can close the bridge in two ways: short-term closings will be up to half an hour at a time, and they can also enact a long-term closing, which will be for up to four hours at a time, Farhoumand said.

Even though low-charge explosives will be used for the work, Farhoumand said, “we want to make sure there’s no flying debris” that may strike a vehicle. During periods of time when the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic, “no spectators will be allowed” on the bridge either, added.

Police Chief Thomas Tighe, who is currently the interim town administrator, said that town officials met with the DOT last week to go over the plan for bridge closures and traffic flow concerns.

He anticipates having “a few problems” with people being inconvenienced, but “it’s something we have to do,” Tighe said.

He suggested that everyone be aware of when bridge closures are scheduled and “be careful about making appointments” on those days.

Work will take place year round unless there is extreme weather, Farhoumand said. The bulk of the project will take place during 2006, with the remaining months of 2007 used primarily for cleanup activities he noted.

The cost of the demolition will be split between state and federal dollars, Farhoumand said, adding that the federal government will pay for 80 percent of the project and the state will pickup the remaining 20 percent of the costs.

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