After 25 years, Conant Street Railroad Bridge reopens

After 25 years, Conant Street Railroad Bridge reopens

A motorist coming from Main Street crosses the new Conant Street Railroad Bridge last Friday afternoon. A bridge replacement project has been completed 25 years after the bridge closed. (Valley Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET - With little fanfare and no preliminary announcement, the new Conant Street Railroad Bridge was quietly reopened to traffic on the last day of 2013. The opening came 25 years after the bridge was shut down, bringing to an end a two-year, $4.3 million replacement project by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Cardi Corp.

"With the completion this past summer of the I-95 Pawtucket River Bridge, this gives us two bridges to progress that reopened in the city in 2013," said Mayor Donald Grebien in a statement.

Grebien viewed the reopened span informally with other city officials. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for dedication of the new bridge will happen in January, according to city officials.

"This bridge restores the link from Fairlawn to the Conant Street Industrial Park area that is targeted for commuter rail development, and will also improve public safety and visibility to protect our historic Mineral Spring Cemetery while offering increased accessibility for this neighborhood," said Grebien.

Because the bridge reopened on New Year's Eve, and a snowstorm limited traffic on Thursday and Friday, local storeowners said they didn't notice any kind of immediate bump in business from the bridge reopening.

Delayed many times over the years due to insurance liability and other issues, the bridge carries Conant Street over Amtrak and the Providence and Worcester Railroads between Mineral Spring Avenue and Barton and Weeden streets.

Many residents, often critical over the years that the key connector was not being rebuilt, eventually resigned themselves to the idea that it might never reopen.

Structural deterioration forced the closing of the original bridge, built in 1913 with two span steel-through-girder construction, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

The new bridge is a single span truss structure with steel floor beams, steel stringers and concrete deck. It was built with weathering steel to develop a protective exterior that will coat the base and require less maintenance, and has been designed to carry all modern truck loads during its design life of 75 to 100 years.

The new bridge has two 13-foot-wide travel lanes and two five-foot-wide sidewalks that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also features new fencing, guardrails, granite curbing, drainage and utility improvements and new signage and striping. Some minor work remains for full completion. The federally-funded project was performed by Cardi Corporation for RIDOT.

Ground was broken for construction back in October of 2011 with Gov. Lincoln Chafee, RIDOT Director Michael Lewis, former Mayor James Doyle and Grebien among those in attendance. Lewis at the time credited the state's congressional delegation and the two city administrations for being instrumental in pursuing legislation needed to resolve liability issues with Amtrak.

City officials watched a police cruiser cross the new Conant Street Railroad Bridge last Tuesday. They are, from left, Public Works Director Lance Hill, City Council members Jean Philippe Barros, Tim Rudd and Al Vitali, and Mayor Don Grebien.