2006-04-06 / Front Page

Say goodbye to the old Jamestown Bridge

The center span will be demolished Tuesday morning
By Sam Bari

In just five days, on Tuesday, April 11, the center span of the old Jamestown Bridge will be dropped into Narragansett Bay sometime between 11 a.m. and noon.

On that morning, the new Jamestown Bridge will be closed at 10 a.m. for up to four hours, so the demolition, cleanup, and safety inspection can take place. The latest the bridge will be closed is 2 p.m. According to the state Department of Transportation, if all goes well, the bridge could be opened to traffic in less than the four hours scheduled for the event.

Local roads that will be closed on both sides of the bridge have been clearly marked by 40 fixed and portable electronic message boards as well as signs indicating the times, detour routes, and boundaries of restricted areas.

Mandatory evacuation is in effect for homes within the 1500foot clear zone of the demolition site. Homeowners in the evacuation areas have been contacted directly and are aware of what is expected of them. During the evacuation period, displaced residents can go to the Jamestown library, where they can watch a live broadcast of the event.

On the morning of the event, motorists should avoid driving in the clearzone areas because their presence could adversely affect the demolition schedule.

Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, will be permitted access just prior to and after the demolition if needed.

All marine traffic within 3,000 feet of the old Jamestown Bridge center span will be prohibited starting at 10 a.m. on the morning of the detonation until the bridge is re-opened. The DOT recommends that any boats moored or docked within the 3,000-foot area be moved.

There are no nearby viewing areas of the event. The University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus on South Ferry Road offers a clear line of sight to the bridge. However, due to available space, the number of spectators will be limited.

The event can be viewed live on Cox Digital Cable channel 124. The Highway Advisory Radio system at 1630 AM on the dial will also be broadcasting announcements concerning road closures and other up-to-theminute information. For complete details, interested parties can also visit the DOT Web site at www.dot.state.ri.us. Safety zones will be strictly enforced in the air, on land, and on the water.

At 10 a.m. on April 11, dignitaries will gather at a restricted site on the North Kingstown side of the Jamestown Bridge. There, Governor Carcieri, and U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee will make speeches to invited guests.

After the ceremonies, sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, a tugboat will sound three blasts on a horn to signal a five-minute warning, followed in four minutes by another three blasts, signaling a one-minute warning.

Then a 10-second countdown will signal the governor to press the button to detonate the charges. Only the media and other personnel in the immediate area will hear the live countdown.

However, the countdown will be broadcast on Cox Digital Cable channel 124.

After the explosion, the new bridge will be cleared of any debris. A safety inspection will follow before Route 138 and all roads will be re-opened to traffic and evacuees will be allowed to return to their homes.

Following the event, the DOT expects the area to be cleared for limited marine traffic in about four weeks. The U.S. Coast Guard can provide more specific information, but the DOT recommends that boaters avoid the area if possible.

Dick Zellen, project manager, and John McNulty, project supervisor for Cashman Equipment Corporation, the contractors in charge of the dismantling of the bridge, estimate total cleanup time to be six to eight weeks after the explosion before the entire area will be open for navigation.

The superstructure of the center span is pre-rigged with cable to hold it together during the explosion, Zellen said. The entire structure is designed to collapse into the bay in such a way that it can be easily retrieved. Divers will be sent down to attach cranes to the rigged cables to pull the debris out of the water and lower it onto barges, he continued. The process cannot be rushed, and must be done properly to ensure safety and efficiency, he added.

The steel sections of the bridge will be recycled and the concrete sections will be used to create artificial reefs.

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