Stone Arch Bridge reopens, but some businesses fear future

Stone Arch Bridge reopens, but some businesses fear future

The Stone Arch Bridge, which has been closed since May 1, reopened for single lane traffic over the weekend. (Breeze photo by Sandy Seoane)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Workers have completed the first round of repairs on the historic Stone Arch Bridge in Slatersville and the structure reopened to one-way traffic last Friday, June 30.

But with bridge traffic scheduled to be halted again in March of 2018, some nearby businesses have concerns about their future, pointing to sharp declines in sales due to the recent closure. Construction shut down the span along Route 5 between May 1 and July 1.

“Sales have been almost halfway down,” said Gerald Prifti of Gusto Pizzeria & Spaghetteria on North Main Street. “This could put us out of business. I’m working 14-hour days just to lose my money.”

Prifti’s business is one of a small number of local shops most impacted by the closure, which has extended commute times for many local workers, and separated Slatersville village eateries from the industrial park beyond. The structure is the oldest documented masonry bridge in Rhode Island, built in 1855, and carries some 8,000 vehicles a day over the Branch River. Located beside the former Slatersville Mill, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Slatersville Historic District, and officials consider it a central element in building a national park in the Blackstone Valley.

The state-owned structure has been in need of repair for several decades. Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation noted that the bridge’s historic value made design more complex, and varying plans for rehabilitation have stalled, dating as far back as 1983.

The bridge has been structurally deficient since 2007, and RIDOT closed half of the road down in 2013 over safety concerns, installing temporary traffic signals for single-lane travel.

The first round of repairs on the Stone Arch Bridge finally began with contractor MIG Corp. working to restore and reinforce the existing arches. Work over the past two months also included relocation of nearby utilities, a project DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said was “more complex than predicted,” but was nonetheless completed ahead of schedule.

Over the remainder of summer, contractors will continue to work on the 150-foot bridge’s historic stone walls, and on walkways and sidewalks on both sides of the structure. Next March, the bridge will once again close, and will remain closed to traffic through July of 2019.

Once completed, the bridge will be seven feet wider, and handicapped accessible on both sides. The total cost of the project is expected to land around $13.5 million.

For area businesses, it seems the completion can’t come soon enough. Jocelyn Labrecque, owner of Quick Stop Deli on North Main Street, said her business has been down around 40 percent through the initial closure.

“We’re just going to try to get through it. There’s really nothing we can do about it,” Labrecque said.

First opened on Great Road 33 years ago, Quick Stop moved into a building by the entry to Pacheco Park sometime around 2000, joining a small cluster of businesses by Town Hall. It features a full deli, plus many affordable options for breakfast and lunch on the go.

Labrecque said that normal customers who work on Industrial Drive have been missing through the closure.

“That’s what we’re losing,” she said. “People don’t have time on their lunch break or in the morning with the bridge down.”

Asked how she feels about next year’s bridge closure, which will last more than a year, Labrecque said, “We are concerned.”

Prifti said that when the bridge is open, his pizzeria typically delivers around 10 orders a day to homes along Black Plain Road, a street just past the river. Since March, he said he’s had none.

“Everyone on the other side thinks we’re closed,” Prifti said. “It’s a sad situation.”

“It’s taking too long,” he said of the bridge work. “For the past seven years, we’ve built our business from the ground up. It seems like nobody cares about small businesses.”

Fortunately, not all local companies have been affected the same way. Cindy Desmarais, owner of One on One Hair Designs in the same office plaza said her shop has remained busy.

“Our clients find us,” Desmarais said.

Labrecque noted that the detour around the bridge is only 2.7 miles.

“It’s not that bad,” she said, adding that the price and quality of her Quick Stop’s ground beef is considered the best locally. “I have people come from Connecticut to pick it up, so I don’t know why they can’t come over the bridge.”

Comments

Why doesn't local businesses give a 1 hour lunch during the time the bridge is shut down then go back to half hour lunches once the bridge opens back up?????????????

Gusto Pizza and Quick Stop Deli are two of the best kept secrets in RI and it would be a shame if they had to close. Too all the local businesses affected, ride this out, once that bridge is finished your business will return, please don't close up shop.....

Is it me, or does 13.5 million dollars seem like an AWFUL lot of money. I generally am in favor of preservation, but I'll bet it could have been replaced with something new for considerably less money.

Remember you are referring to the RIDOT and the National Register of Historical Places........Hence DIG DEEP cause we are going to OVER pay !

stone bridges outlast modern built one made with concrete & steel. They might cost more at first but make up for it in time used. How old is this bridge? Look at the GW bridge in NYC. Made of stone about 100 years ago and still going strong. How long did the Jamestown bridge last? That was a modern built bridge. The South Main st bridge by the waterfall in Woonsocket is doing just fine. Well over 100 years old. Can we talk about the Roman Aqueducts in Italy? many parts are still standing.

I'd love to see an itemized list showing where the money went for this project.

The cost for a larger bridge over 146 is going to cost only 57% of this one.
RI DOT, you're doing something wrong....

How long did the first one last? Are they building the replacement the same way?