RIDOT, Cardi at odds over who should pay to repair IWAY railing

According to RIDOT, the defect could be seen after concrete was chipped away.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has sent a letter to the IWAY contractor, requesting that work begin immediately on the structure’s “defective railing” that’s been shrouded by Jersey barriers for two and half years, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Target 12 reached out to RIDOT early Tuesday morning for an update on the repair process, and by the afternoon, department spokesperson Charles St. Martin said a letter had been sent that day to Cardi Corp.

“RIDOT is respectfully requesting that this work begin immediately,” the letter from RIDOT Chief Engineer David Fish stated.

The letter included railing system repair plans that, according to St. Martin, were approved by the Federal Highway Administration on Nov. 19. But the letter also indicated Cardi Corporation had proposed a different solution.

The existing bridge railing system has been deemed defective and needs to be repaired.”

As far as who’s paying for the project, that depends on who you ask.

RIDOT has told Target 12 the contractor would pay for the cost, which according to a number of documents has already totaled close to $500,000 just for engineering studies and Jersey barrier rentals. Cardi has been paid about $7,000 a month for the barriers, which stand between traffic and the defective railing.

But Cardi’s Vice President and General Counsel Jeremy Ritzenberg said Cardi disagrees about who was at fault for the railing and who should pay for it.

“Throughout that process, we have explained that the work in question is believed to have been performed as authorized by RIDOT field representatives,” Ritzenberg said. “And we have therefore made clear that we do not believe that the cost of modifying the railing is a cost which Cardi should bear.”

Less than a decade ago, the bridge was lauded for its design and for how it was transported by river to its final resting place to carry I-195 traffic over the Providence River. The $11 million project was nominated for awards for opening on time and on budget.

But an unknown collision by a vehicle with the structure crumbled concrete near the railing and revealed signs of the bigger problem. Further probing traced the issue to improperly installed steel, designed to reinforce how the rail was attached to the bridge. According to one engineering report released last year, the defect was caused by “parties unknown.”

A letter to RIDOT from CDR Maguire Engineering indicates the steel reinforcement bars were apparently cut, which the letter stated was “not in accordance with the Contract Drawings.”

“The conclusion is that the anchor bolts were installed after the reinforcing steel was placed and the decision made by (parties unknown) to cut the interfering reinforcing steel or install the anchor bolts above the reinforcing steel,” the letter said.

The problem prompted RIDOT to rent the Jersey barriers that have lined both sides of the nine-year-old bridge ever since, drawing a concrete line between traffic and the railing, and the drop to the river below.

St. Martin said there is “no projected cost for repair at this time.” Ritzenberg made a similar statement.

“In fact, we are just beginning the process of preparing a cost estimate for a new remedial design for this railing,” he said, adding that Cardi is willing to negotiate with RIDOT.

An Access to Public Records Act request to RIDOT from Target 12 that sought details about the cost and engineering plans prompted an email that stated an “engineers’ estimate” and “preliminary plans” were received in September. But the department’s assistant administrative officer Nancy Ricci claimed the records themselves were exempt from disclosure due to a number of reasons, including the documents’ preliminary nature.

Also unanswered at this time is what the repair process will do to the traffic on the bridge and how long that potential congestion might last. RIDOT statistics indicate 160,000 vehicles travel across the light blue bridge every day.

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

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