RIDOT closes Park Ave bridge; calls it ‘a safety risk’

(Brian Yocono/WPRI)

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — As the debate continued Tuesday on Smith Hill over the best way to fix Rhode Island’s crumbling roads and bridges, just a few miles away the state Department of Transportation closed the Park Avenue Bridge in Cranston, citing safety concerns.

The bridge carries Park Avenue over Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor tracks. A 2013 RIDOT analysis put the bridge’s average daily traffic at 17,712 and described its condition as “poor,” with a weight limit already in place.

RIDOT said an inspection by an outside engineering consultant found “significant deterioration in the bridge’s timber deck” and recommended the bridge be closed. It will only remain open for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

In a formal letter sent to the governor Tuesday informing her of the decision, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti warned that “it is my professional opinion that this bridge is in imminent danger of collapse.”

The agency said an engineer with the Federal Highway Administration Rhode Island Division also inspected the bridge Tuesday morning, and agreed with RIDOT’s decision to close the span.

Division Administrator Carlos Machado stated that “the bridge is a safety risk to the motoring public and must be closed.”

RIDOT said the initial examination was part of an accelerated bridge inspection effort it began on May 6, three weeks before Gov. Gina Raimondo announced RhodeWorks, her controversial transportation program to rehabilitate the state’s infrastructure.

“Thank God we found this before somebody got hurt,” Raimondo said Tuesday.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, who represents Cranston, immediately called on the governor to investigate why RIDOT hadn’t done more to keep the bridge viable since its previous inspection last September.

Motorists on Park Avenue will be directed to detour routes, which include:

Special Coverage: RIDOT’s plan to repair aging infrastructure »
  • Park Avenue Eastbound:
    • Use Reservoir Avenue north and take the on-ramp to Route 10 South.
    • Take the exit onto Park Avenue.
  • Park Avenue Westbound: 
    • Use the on-ramp to Route 10 North.
    • Take the exit to Reservoir Avenue south and follow to Park Avenue.
  • Local Traffic Detour:
    • Local traffic on Park Avenue should use Elmwood Avenue and Wellington Avenue to detour around the bridge closure.
    • The road will remain open to local traffic on either side of the bridge.

According to RIDOT, the Park Avenue Bridge was built in 1906, and was last rehabilitated in 1991. It is classified as structurally deficient. While most bridges in the state are inspected every two years, RIDOT said it has been inspecting this bridge every year to keep a close eye on the deterioration.

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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