Stone Arch Bridge reduced to single lane

Stone Arch Bridge reduced to single lane

DOT finds deficiencies, implements immediate change

NORTH SMITHFIELD - After finding that a parapet on the Stone Arch Bridge in Slatersville has extensive deterioration, the Department of Transportation has reduced the historic structure to a single lane of traffic, a change that's expected to last for the next year while a major repair and restoration project goes out to bid.

The change came unexpectedly Monday afternoon after DOT engineers noticed the deterioration under one of the parapets.

By 6 p.m., the state transportation department had placed stop signs at either end of the structure, implementing an alternating right of way. Motorists could face some delays on the bridge, which crosses over the Branch River connecting Main Street to points along Route 5, and will need to yield to oncoming traffic before passing.

"We're going to be left to our own devices to be very polite to each other," said Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton.

There are currently no changes to the weight limit on the bridge, and the switch is not expected to disrupt fire truck or school bus travel.

"Everything's OK, except you won't have two-way traffic," explained Hamilton

DOT was already slated to begin widening the structure in 2014 with a construction project that will close the bridge completely for seven to eight months.

When it's finished, the 107 foot-long archway will be seven feet wider, and will include a 5-foot 6-inch sidewalk.

And while motorists may not be thrilled with the immediate inconvenience, town officials pointed out Monday that DOT's original design plan for the bridge would have made things worse.

Until February, the department had on file, a plan that would have forced travelers to take a 3.5 mile detour to get from historic downtown Slatersville to Industrial Drive and the schools beyond for at least two years. Hamilton and Town Planner Robert Ericson only recently pushed for DOT to examine an alternative design that will limit closure time.

The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Slatersville Historic District and officials consider it a central element in plans to create a National Park in the Blackstone Valley.

Town officials have also recently asked DOT if savings from the new design plan can be used to create pedestrian improvements in the area. Town Council President John Flaherty said he hopes to make sure the request does not delay the impending bridge work.

Hamilton and Ericson are currently in the process of setting up a meeting with DOT to discuss a timeline for the project.

What became clear Monday was that regardless of the scope of the work, residents will have to start adjusting to change now.

"What you see there tonight is probably going to be there for at least a year," said Hamilton.