2017-09-14 / News

Pell Bridge construction delays set to resume in both directions

Following a summer with four open lanes, deck work on the Newport Pell Bridge re-convenes Tuesday on the eastern approach, limiting traffic to one lane in each direction.

The traffic pattern will be similar to the spring construction when the $8.1 million deck project commenced. Just like that phase, workers will remove the top 6 inches of the foot-thick road with hydro-demolition, an innovative technique that uses high-pressure water jets to blast away the concrete. Then workers will replace the entire layer of rebar before pouring fresh concrete on top.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which governs the state’s four main saltwater spans, said the bridge will re-open to four lanes by December.

According to chief engineer Eric Offenberg, contractors “learned a great deal” from the spring phase. “We will continue to improve,” he said. “We are doing our best to mitigate the traffic issues.”

Because the bridge authority did not want to inconvenience summer tourists with traffic jams, there was a hiatus from deck work in July and August. During that time, workers removed bearings from the bridge’s original 1969 construction and replaced them with modern elastomeric bearings. That work was done aboard a barge underneath the bridge.

Since May, overweight and over-wide vehicles have been restricted from traversing the span. That continues through 2017. All vehicles wider than 8 feet 6 inches or heavier than 80,000 pounds are prohibited from crossing.

The heaviest backups, according to Offenberg, will be during rush hours between 6-10 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. “There is no problem crossing the bridge at all other times,” he said.

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