IWAY bridge railing installed improperly

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – The IWAY bridge safety railing that runs along both sides of the 1200 foot structure that spans the Providence River was not installed properly, Target 12 has learned.

The issue was first reported after Target 12 obtained an engineering report that stated “the existing bridge railing system has been deemed defective and needs to be repaired.”

Now, a Rhode Island Department of Transportation spokesperson says the problem was discovered last May, after a 10 foot stretch of the metal railing on the eastbound side of the bridge was damaged.

“(The) damage, likely resulting from a vehicle strike, was also observed to the concrete and anchor bolts securing the railing to the bridge,” RIDOT’s Rose Amoros said. “It is important to note that the bridge is safe for travel.”

A string of Jersey barriers were then installed on both sides of the bridge, between the railing system and the traffic that includes an estimated 160,000 vehicles a day according to RIDOT stats.

“Once the barrier was in place, we began our investigations into how the damage occurred,” Amoros said. “When we chipped away the concrete where the break was discovered, as well as at several other locations along the bridge, it appeared the base of the rail had not been installed properly.”

The $11 million, 2500 ton bridge is less than a decade old and was part of the $610 million Interstate 195 relocation project. In August of 2006, the light blue icon was pushed by barge about 12 miles from Quonset Point, where it was fabricated, to Providence. The floating spectacle attracted shore line observers from across the state. The project was nominated for awards for innovation, and for being completed on time and on budget.

Amoros said RIDOT has hired a consultant to uncover the cause of the rail issue and determine who is responsible for the improper installation.

“The report is currently under development,” she said.

But as of now, there is no word when the repair plans will be solidified, how much the project will cost or how long it will take. Amoros did say RIDOT believes the repair is the responsibility of the contractor.

The engineering report that was obtained by Target 12 through a freedom of information request was prepared for RIDOT by a Providence firm to “investigate” if the defective railing system would be adequately protected if a 2.25 ton pick-up truck or small automobile hit the Jersey barriers at 60 MPH.

The report concludes that a collision would move the barriers, but not enough to hit the railing. The document does recommend “strengthening the barrier system by installing timber block between the barrier” and the curb of the bridge to protect the structure from “higher crash test level” vehicles.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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