Temporary repairs allow Park Avenue bridge to reopen

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Park Avenue bridge in Cranston reopened to traffic Tuesday, 28 days after it was abruptly closed for being “in imminent danger of collapse,” according to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT).

The agency shut down the bridge June 23 after an outside consultant found significant deterioration and deemed it unfit for travel. A 2013 study found the roadway is used by more than 17,000 vehicles on a daily basis.

The bridge cost a little more than $400,000 to fix, and work was completed six days ahead of schedule. Crews worked overnight, and with the bridge running over an Amtrak railroad, almost all of the work was done during outages created by the rail service.

The weight limit is now set at 16 tons.

The repairs are only temporary, according to RIDOT, and the bridge will remain classified as structurally deficient until permanent fixes can be made. In order for that to happen, RIDOT says the state needs to come up with a sustainable solution for infrastructure funding.

A few days before the Park Avenue bridge was closed, Gov. Gina Raimondo rolled out a revised version of her proposal to toll large commercial trucks to generate revenue for bridge and road repairs. The new plan won the approval of the Senate, however House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello remained on the fence.

Mattiello, whose law office is located near the bridge, questioned the timing of the abrupt closure, which occurred just as he was weighing the toll proposal. He immediately called for an investigation of why the bridge had to be closed nine months after a previous inspection allowed it to remain open.

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung speculated the decision could have been meant to pressure Mattiello and House lawmakers to pass the governor’s plan.

RIDOT said the new inspection that triggered the closure is part of an accelerated program to inspect all the state’s structurally deficient bridges, which began in early May.

The House did not take action on the truck tolls before their half-year session came to a close in June. Mattiello said lawmakers will tackle that proposal in the fall.

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