With project's end in sight, traffic shifts on Pawtucket River Bridge

With project's end in sight, traffic shifts on Pawtucket River Bridge

As of now, no late fees expected

PAWTUCKET - Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation last Friday shifted traffic on I-95 South at the Pawtucket River Bridge to a new section of the bridge, one of the last steps of a long and sometimes frustrating reconstruction project.

The traffic shift allowed the DOT to immediately reopen Exit 27 and the Main Street on-ramp to I-95 South. The reopening of the exit to local homes and businesses was a significant milestone for a project that is now expected to be done on schedule by this summer, according to DOT spokeswoman Heidi Gudmundson. Traffic was shifted to the last of three structures built to carry I-95 traffic.

Building the new and greatly improved Pawtucket River Bridge in phases has allowed DOT officials to complete the reconstruction of the span also known as "Bridge 550" with minimal impact to highway traffic and no permanent reductions in travel lanes during peak periods.

The DOT's "high priority" Pawtucket River Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Seekonk River, is being replaced through an $81 million contract with S&R/Pihl, a Joint Venture.

According to Gudmundson, the contractors have gained significant ground with a bridge replacement project that had fallen behind by as many as 140 days or more.

As part of a first-of-its-kind initiative to get the bridge project done more quickly, the companies responsible for the reconstruction of the bridge signed a contract requiring them to pay a $45,000-a-day "disincentive fee" for every day they were late on getting the new Bridge 550 reopened and another $12,500 a day in "liquidated damages."

DOT officials say the ground-breaking incentive clause proved successful. "We do not anticipate any penalties at this time as long as the contractor complies with the current schedule," said Gudmundson.