2006-03-30 / Front Page

Countdown begins to bridge explosion

Three major blasts will demolish old bridge
By Sam Bari

State DOT officials say it will take three explosive "events" to demolish the old Jamestown Bridge. This aerial photo was taken Monday evening by Nate Bousquet. State DOT officials say it will take three explosive "events" to demolish the old Jamestown Bridge. This aerial photo was taken Monday evening by Nate Bousquet. State Department of Transport Deputy Chief Engineer Frank Corrao stood before a packed house at the Melrose Avenue School March 22 and confirmed that the center span of the Jamestown Bridge is scheduled to come down on Tuesday, April 11.

At the special public meeting hosted by the DOT, Corrao made a Powerpoint slide show presentation detailing the impact the demolition will have on the surrounding area as well as the scheduling, methodology, and costs of the work and disposal of the bridge. The dropping of the center span on April 11 is the first scheduled event.

On that day the first of three explosive events requiring the closing of the new Jamestown Bridge and evacuation of the immediate area is highly dependent on safe weather conditions. Consequently, Wednesday and Thursday, April 12 and 13, were scheduled as alternate days. High winds, heavy rain, or fog could postpone the event to alternate days, Carrao said.

Approximately 75 pounds of linear shaped charges of controlled explosives placed at vnotches cut in strategic places will be used to drop the bridge's 1,100-foot-long center span, Carrao explained. He also assured residents living close to the bridge that the charges were all above ground and would not even slightly impact anything below or above ground in the immediate area. His explanation allayed the fears of close-by residents concerned about damaged wells, septic systems, cracked foundations, and structural damage caused by flying debris.

Carrao emphasized that every precaution and consideration for safety had been taken. That is the reason for homes within 1,500 feet north and south of the bridge, called the "clear zone," will be evacuated for the duration of the events, he said.

The new Jamestown Bridge and Route 138 on either side of the bridge is scheduled for closure from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the day the demolition takes place. The event will be well-advertised in newspapers and announced on 1630 AM radio. Signage and boards will be in place within the next few weeks posting routes for detours and schedules for the bridge closings, Carrao noted.

Marine navigation will be closed to all boats for 3,000 feet from the demolition site during the event, he added.

The four-hour closing was the worst-case scenario, Carrao said. If everything goes as planned, the bridge could be closed no longer than one-and-a-half to two hours. During a question and answer period after the presentation, School Superintendent Kathy Sipala said that school buses going to North Kingstown had to leave the island no later than 1:30 p.m. to pick up students. Carrao looked into the matter and announced in a later interview that the DOT will rent school buses and drivers to pick up the students on time in case the regularly

We Dig Jamestown!!

Town Councilman William Kelly also spoke during the question and answer period and asked why the event was scheduled during the middle of the week. "In my 30 years of experience in town management, I've been involved in quite a few of these events, and they all have been scheduled for the weekend so commerce was not effected," he said. Carrao said that he was sure the scheduling was considered to have the least impact on all areas involved. In a telephone interview with the DOT's Chief Public Affairs Officer Dana Nolfe, she said: "We consulted the towns on both sides of the Jamestown and Newport bridges to see what times would least impact all areas. Obviously, we cannot please everyone. However, the consensus was that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were the lowest traffic days and would inconvenience the fewest travelers."

On April 11, or the day of the first event bringing down the center span, Governor Donald Carcieri will gather with Senator Lincoln Chafee and the media on the Kingston side of the bridge. The governor will press the button or plunger detonating the explosives after a warning horn sounds followed by a 10-second countdown.

Carrao noted that if all goes well, the demolition could take place by 10:30 a.m., followed by a half-hour cleanup, and the roads could be open as early as 11:30 a.m. However, that is if we lived in a perfect world, he noted. "Obviously, we will stage the event as quickly as possible and open the roads as soon as they are deemed safe," he said.

The second event will take place approximately six weeks later, around the end of May, before Memorial Day, Carrao said. At that time, the deck truss and girder spans on either side of the center span will be brought down. Both sides will go down at Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of the scheduled week.

The third event will take place at the end of June or after July This event will be the removal the remaining superstructure and substructure. The same procedure and safety precautions will required for all three events. Route 138 and the new Jamestown Bridge will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the days that explosives are scheduled. Mandatory evacuation of clear and safe zones and traffic detours will be required. The schedules will be announced well in advance, and the instructions will be made clear throughout impacted area, Carrao said.

From July through October, 30-minute closings of the bridge will happen from time to time needed. These events will announced well in advance and will occur at times that will least inconvenience travelers who depend on the bridge being open to traffic. The proposed fishing pier the North Kingston side of bridge will have to be rebuilt. The present structure was deemed unsafe by the DOT and is worth repairing, Carrao noted.

The 6,000 tons of structural steel salvaged from the bridge will be recycled. The 43,000 tons of concrete will be used to make artificial reefs at Sheep Point and Gooseberry Island.

At the beginning of his presentation, Carrao acknowledged who were involved in the success of the bridge dismantling, mentioning many by name. He particularly praised the work Cashman Equipment Corporation of New Orleans that was awarded the $19.9 million contract. also gave special mention of Demtech Corporation of Dubois, Wyoming, the demolition experts hired for the project.

Carrao was given an enthusiastic ovation from the audience.

Return to top