DOT: Conant Street bridge done by Christmas

DOT: Conant Street bridge done by Christmas

Workers install guardrail along the new Conant Street bridge last Friday. (Valley Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
Business owners, residents cautiously excited

PAWTUCKET - Final paving and electrical work has commenced at the Conant Street bridge, meaning the span should finally be done by the start of the winter shutdown period, according to a spokeswoman from the Department of Transportation.

The shutdown period begins Dec. 15 and runs through April 15 of next year, said Rose Amoros, but the long-awaited Conant Street bridge should be done before then.

Amoros told The Breeze that a needed part has finally arrived, allowing workers to finish work on a gas line over the bridge.

"We are in the process of resurfacing Conant Street, from Mineral Spring Avenue to Weeden Street, and installing granite curb and concrete sidewalks," she said last week. "National Grid is also installing two more utility poles and transferring the electrical lines over the next few weeks."

Business owners in the area say the reopening of a bridge that was shut down 25 years ago will make life easier for their customers.

Maria Silva, who runs Luzitania Bakery on Barton Street, said owners there opened more than 20 years ago but never got to experience life with the bridge being open. Silva said she's hopeful that the span will in fact reopen by Dec. 15, allowing customers easier access to the bakery.

"A lot of people are going to find it easier to get here," she said.

Marcio Estrela, a frequent customer at Luzitania Bakery, said a reopened bridge will allow him to get his bread "in a few seconds" instead of the few minutes it takes him to drive the current roundabout routes.

Cindy Murphy, who lives in the neighborhood with her husband Ed, said the improved access the new bridge will bring "will benefit many."

"The streets are terribly congested with traffic at Mineral Spring and Lonsdale Avenues where the same area holds many residential homes and apartments, three schools and many local businesses," she said.

This "very busy neighborhood" is full of pedestrians, said Murphy, from kindergarten students to the elderly. The bridge should afford those walking and driving "an outlet," said Murphy, "possibly bringing attention to some of the local businesses at Conant and Weeden streets.

"Personally, my husband and I enjoy walking in the good weather, as many others do, and we look forward to the opening of the bridge reconnecting a part of the neighborhood," said Murphy.

Amoros called the Conant Street replacement "a complex project with several moving parts."

"And as with any construction project, there are adjustments that are often needed along the way," she said. "For example, we were working over live Amtrak lines, and unfortunately the outage times requested were not always available so the work schedule had to be adjusted accordingly."

In addition, said Amoros, "we had to make design modifications to accommodate the gas and water lines over the bridge."

The Conant Street Bridge, which carries Conant Street over Amtrak and the Providence and Worcester Railroad tracks, was shut down all the way back in 1989. City and state officials finally broke ground on a new bridge back in the fall of 2011, two years after liability issues put off the project once again.

Amoros said in early August that the bridge would be done by the end of September.

The city-owned bridge, first built in 1913, is being replaced through a $4.3 million contract with Cardi Corp. It is expected to play a central role in bringing a future commuter rail station to the area of Mineral Spring Avenue, Barton Street and Weeden Street.

The new bridge is expected to last for a century.

Marcio Estrela, right, looks forward to having a shorter route to drive to buy his Portuguese bread from Maria Silva and her Luzitania Bakery.