DOT: End of Pawtucket River Bridge project just weeks away

DOT: End of Pawtucket River Bridge project just weeks away

PAWTUCKET - A return to normalcy is within reach. The rebuilding of the city's landmark span, the Pawtucket River Bridge, is on target for "substantial completion" in the next two weeks, according to a representative for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

DOT officials are now working with city officials and other area partners to organize a special ceremony to unveil the bridge's unique lighting scheme on Saturday evening, Sept. 7. The event will celebrate the final piece of a landmark project that will mean big things for Pawtucket's downtown and riverfront.

The DOT last Thursday announced completion of a final milestone in the massive bridge project, the reopening of the George Street Bridge. The bridge is a key overpass connecting Oak Hill with the downtown.

The planned new light system, one of the key design elements implemented by a Pawtucket task force well before the project even began in the fall of 2010, will not only create a beautiful night along Pawtucket's downtown riverfront, but function to brighten the areas under and around the bridge, say DOT officials. Seen from the river, the metalized steel bridge, with its blue and white LED lighting, "will display a graceful silvery arch over the water," according to a news release.

Inspiration for the new Pawtucket River Bridge design came from other structures in Pawtucket built during the Great Depression, such as City Hall, McCoy Stadium and Shea High School. Each shows elements of the period's Art Deco style. The new bridge's four pillars will feature motifs of Art Deco wings on the eagles chiseled atop the tower at City Hall.

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.

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 incentive clause proved successful. They say the companies responsible for rebuilding the bridge fell behind by 140 days or more during the course of the three-year project, but were able to regain all of that lost time.