2006-02-02 / Front Page

The end draws near for the old Jamestown bridge

By Dotti Farrington

Workers remove decking from the old Jamestown Bridge Wednesday morning. Photos by Jeff McDonough Workers remove decking from the old Jamestown Bridge Wednesday morning. Photos by Jeff McDonough The state Department of Transportation began dismantling the deck of the old Jamestown Bridge this week, as workers continue to prepare for the “big bang” in about three months to remove the bridge itself.

Work in coming weeks is not expected to affect traffic on the new Jamestown Bridge. During actual demolition events, traffic on the new bridge will be disrupted, usually for about a half an hour at a time, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., according to the DOT’s current plans. Before any traffic impacts are scheduled definitely, one or more public workshops will be conducted to explain the demolition process, DOT officials said.

The big bang part of the project is expected in May, and possibly sooner if the weather remains relatively fair, Wilfred Hernandez, project engineer for the DOT, said Tuesday.

He has worked on other bridge projects, but never on a demolition “of this magnitude,” Hernandez pointed out. The state has hired several experts to serve as on location consultants on various phases of the job.

Looking west at the old bridge from the top of the new bridge. Looking west at the old bridge from the top of the new bridge. Hernandez said the removal of large steel deck plates has been started in the middle of the bridge, and the roadway plates will be removed from the full width of the bridge, as work progresses.

Hernandez said that drawings for the project were just approved by the DOT, and some information, such as how long each phase would take to complete, was not yet calculated. He said the plates being removed now will be trucked away by the contractor, to a location for stockpiling or for delivery directly to a buyer of the materials, based on the contractor’s arrangements. The contractor has salvage rights to the approximately 6,000 tons of steel in the bridge.

The Cashman Equipment Company of Boston has been hired by the DOT for a basic contract cost of $19.5 million to take the bridge down and out. The bridge will be partially dismantled and partly demolished by explosives. Most of the steel will be salvaged, and the cement, some with embedded steel, will be towed away to create three artificial marine reefs. An estimated 24,000 cubic yards of concrete debris is involved.

The locations of the reefs will be Gooseberry Island and Sheep Point, both within two miles of the Newport coastline, and in Rhode Island Sound, at a point 10 miles southeast of Point Judith, Hernandez said.

One of seven bidders, Cashman was awarded the demolition contract in September. Almost immediately the firm started preparatory work, beginning with clearing vegetation from both ends of the bridge, paving temporary roads, and creating a trailer city for offices, equipment and supplies at the bridge’s western end.

Cashman specializes in marine construction, plus rental and sales of marine equipment. One of the largest barge companies in North America, it is operated by James Cashman, third generation owner of the equipment company that deals with inland and offshore construction, as well as project cargo services. It also operates Cashman Scrap and Salvage. Hernandez said that at least one barge is expected to be brought in soon, possibly this week, as part of the dismantling project. One vessel will have a clam-type excavating device to be used for carefully placing the materials for the reefs. “They won’t be simply dumped into the water,” Hernandez said. Photographs of the reef locations, before and after placements of materials, will be taken as part of the study of the evolution of the reefs, the project engineer said.

According to DOT data, the bridge removal contract with Cashman is for 5,300 feet of the middle and eastern segments of the structure, with another contract to be awarded later for removal of the 1,600 feet of the North Kingstown section of the bridge. Original plans call for development of that portion as a fishing pier. Hernandez said it has not been determined yet whether the western section would also be demolished or reconstructed for the pier. Recent DOT reports indicated that the conditions of all parts of the bridge structure are too deteriorated to be re-used.

Hernandez suggested that he has not become familiar with the fishing pier aspect because it will be part of a different project.

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