Northern Diamond Hill Road getting smooth new surface

Northern Diamond Hill Road getting smooth new surface

You may not notice much of a bridge here, but in this spot on Cumberland's Diamond Hill Road, just north of Nate Whipple Highway, a bridge in need of repair crosses the brook that feeds the Pawtucket Reservoir in Arnold Mills. For years, weight of trucks on the bridge have been limited. Now, the state says this critical artery will be closed for a time so a new, pre-fabricated bridge deck can be installed. (Valley Breeze photo by Tom Ward)
But 2015 Newell Bridge replacement likely to challenge drivers

CUMBERLAND - The state will be resurfacing the most northern stretch of Diamond Hill Road, 1.7 miles from Nate Whipple Highway to Wrentham Road, beginning next spring.

And scheduled for the following year is replacing the 1926 concrete slab-style Newell Bridge at the intersection of Routes 114 and 120.

Cumberland is one of 10 communities that will see resurfacing roadwork covered by a $2.5 million fund. It will be accomplished as night-time work that sometimes requires closing one lane of traffic at a time.

Bids were opened on Aug. 28 and are still under review.

Rhode Island Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rose Amoros describes the resurfacing as a micromilling and paver-placed elastomeric surface technique used to rehabilitate and preserve the pavement.

The top layer of the asphalt will be removed and thin overlay applied to create a smooth riding surface and extend the life of the roadway.

Amoros says it's hoped the process will delay the need for a more costly replacement project.

About the Newell Bridge, at the intersection some know as Newell's Corner, the DOT is looking at a speedier replacement process than traditional construction at this busy crossroads.

In 2005, the state DOT met with a storm of protest from Cumberland officials over announced plans to replace the bridge.

Detours for this intersection are difficult - West Wrentham Road or North Attleboro Road - and major traffic snarls were predicted.

In an effort to ease the pain, DOT is talking about using pre-cast components. Round Top Bridge in Burrillville was replaced in 41 days in 2010 and the Frenchtown Brook Bridge in just 33 days last year, Amoros told The Breeze.

"We anticipate having a plan to present to the town next spring," she said.

According to the state officials, the bridge is considered "functionally obsolete," which means it doesn't meet current lane width and other size and weight requirements. In fact, it is posted with 7-ton weight limit signs that are routinely ignored.

The last inspection report secured by The Breeze shows it rated in "fair" condition with notes about some cracks.

The bridge crosses the northeast-flowing East Sneech Brook, dammed in the 19th century by the Newells to run their saw mill operation as well as a series of added enterprises, including machines, textiles, and boats.

It dates back to 1926, at a time when Diamond Hill Road was reconstructed and raised, but it's set on top of 1887 granite abutments that will be retained with the new bridge, too, according to Amoros.

The year 1887 saw three new bridges in town after the flood of 1886 washed away the iron bridges at Rawson and Howard roads, too.

Researcher Ned Connors, hired by the DOT in 2002 to document the bridge's history, said then it was probably still in good shape in 1926, but engineers were raising the grade of Diamond Hill Road to accommodate Pawtucket's move toward a second reservoir in northern Cumberland. A year earlier, the Pawtucket Water Supply Board had taken the Newell and Pierce farms to create the Arnold Mills Reservoir.

The 30-inch pad of concrete laid up on the abutments brought the span up to the roadway's height.

Connors' recommendation to the state back then included keeping the foundation.

Eleven years later, that's just what will happen. "We will keep the existing stone abutments in place and build behind them," Amoros told The Breeze.