Inspectors: Johnston bridge has not gotten worse since last inspection

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Repair work on the Park Avenue bridge in Cranston has begun and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation said the goal is to reopen in a month.

On Tuesday, Eyewitness News got a firsthand look at another deteriorating bridge — the Simmonsville Avenue bridge in Johnston. Inspectors were going over the bridge inch by inch, as concrete crumbled into the Simmons Brook.

The bridge is already weight-restricted and it’s another one of the 230 structurally deficient bridges across the state.

But according to inspectors, the bridge hasn’t gotten any worse since it’s last inspection.

“Things seem to be stable,” one worker said.

Eyewitness News asked David Fish, RIDOT’s Managing Bridge Engineer if the crumbling concrete is concerning.

“In a concrete bridge, there is cover to the main reinforcement and that’s exactly what it is,” he said. “While it’s bad to see concrete that is deteriorating to a point where it becomes loose and is able to be chipped out with an inspection hammer, it doesn’t [concern officials] unless it’s really significant and affects the load-carrying capacity. It’s something that we can deal with on the regular inspection basis.”

Typically, the inspections are once a year — but this bridge inspection is part of an accelerated inspection program RIDOT launched after incidents on several of the state’s structurally deficient bridges.

When asked what “structurally deficient” actually means, Fish said: “It just means that the bridge needs to have additional inspections done and it does mean that it is eligible for rehabilitation or reconstruction. It does not mean that it is unsafe. We take every action that we need to take to ensure the safety of the traveling public.”

RIDOT estimates that it would cost $1.2 billion to repair all of the structurally deficient bridges in the state — but Fish said the bridges in the worst conditions are prioritized first.

“How we prioritize is based on condition. And we have several factors. The condition is one but also importance to the traffic public, how much traffic does it carry, like for instance a bridge that carries 95 would carry anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 vehicles per day. So that’s got to be higher on our priority list because it impacts the greater number of people,” Fish said. “We have to make some hard choices. And in order to do that some of these bridges that are still deteriorating can’t be worked on right away until we have the funds available to do that work.”

Sate lawmakers said Monday they will try to secure federal funding to fix Rhode Island’s crumbling roads and bridges.

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