2008-05-15 / News

Seawall project expands again

By Sam Bari

The state transportation department is expanding the scope of the seawall project on Conanicus Avenue near East Ferry for the second time, according to Heidi Cote, a Rhode Island Department of Transportation spokesperson.

"The project is be advertised for bid again in June," Cote said. "The road repairs and replacement wall require about twice as much work and materials as originally estimated.

"RIDOT believes that doubling the amount of work prior to the fall and winter storm season rather than having to go out on an emergency basis is beneficial to both the town and the state," Cote said in a written statement.

Town Engineer Michael Gray said that RIDOT has been working closely with the town on the project. He said they have been cooperative, attentive, and concerned with the town's needs. RIDOT has been considerate of the scheduling of the major part of the work so the impact on the tourist season and inconvenience to residents is minimal, Gray said.

"Considering the magnitude of the project, I believe repairing the road, rebuilding the seawall, and constructing a sidewalk would be best after the season and before the winter storms begin," Gray said. "RIDOT is amenable to that timetable, so the re-bidding of the expanded plan is working well with the schedule."

The wall had been showing signs of deterioration several years ago, and the matter was brought to the attention of Town Administrator Bruce Keiser not long after he took office. He discussed the problems with Ed Parker, the RIDOT chief engineer at the time. They went out to inspect the area just days before an unexpected spring nor'easter hit with a vengeance.

The nor'easter began Sunday afternoon, April 15, 2007, and continued late into Monday with pounding wind and more than three-inches of rain recorded at the Water Treatment Plant on North Main Road.

The greatest damage occurred late Monday afternoon on Conanicus Avenue at the Emerson Lane entrance to Shoreby Hill where part of the seawall and road were washed away. The road had been closed earlier that day because of pounding waves and high tides.

Police Chief Thomas Tighe said state-hired workers were at the seawall late that Monday and they returned with heavy equipment the next day to make emergency repairs to the road and seawall, which are part of the state road system.

Public Works Director Steve Goslee reported that two sewer mains malfunctioned: on Conanicus Avenue at Knowles Court during the storm, dumping about 16,000 gallons of wastewater into Narragansett Bay at East Ferry; and at the Dumplings, south of East Ferry, where about 14,000 gallons of wastewater went into the bay. The area had to be closed to the taking of shellfish as a result.

RIDOT made substantial repairs, and the wall and road were made safe for travelers. However, "It won't hold forever," Gray said. "Consequently, RIDOT engineers have taken a look at the broad picture and have planned for the future. They believe the most prudent thing to do in the best interests of safety and economy is to rebuild 300-feet of the seawall outside of the present wall to double the strength," Gray said.

"By exercising a little patience and cooperating with RIDOT, the town is going to benefit substantially from the expanded project," Gray added.

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