Woonsocket Hill Road Bridge opens ahead of schedule

Woonsocket Hill Road Bridge opens ahead of schedule

Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and town of North Smithfield celebrated the opening of the Woonsocket Hill Road Bridge over Route 146 last week. The bridge opened on Nov. 21. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)
Stone Arch Bridge could open by Christmas

NORTH SMITHFIELD – For the first time since February, traffic is free to flow from one end of Woonsocket Hill Road to the other via the newly opened bridge over Route 146.

The new bridge opened the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a month ahead of its expected December completion date, and involved a full replacement of the previous bridge over Route 146. According to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the bridge carries approximately 1,000 vehicles per day.

RIDOT and town officials gathered on the bridge last Thursday, Nov. 29, to celebrate the early opening. Town Administrator Gary Ezovski acknowledged the inconvenience of the prolonged detour for residents but thanked RIDOT officials and project managers for their good communication with the town throughout the project.

“As short as the detours are, it’s amazing how routine we are about the things that we do,” he said.

RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. noted the importance of the bridge to residents and local businesses, including Wright’s Dairy Farm, located just over the eastern side of the bridge. Like many others rehabilitated as part of an $11.3 million Route 146 Corridor Bridges project, the bridge, he said, was structurally deficient and in need of repair.

“We really thank them for being patient and good neighbors throughout this entire project, not to mention the great pastry that they have,” he said.

According to Alviti, the Woonsocket Hill Road Bridge is an example of the success of a new project management system and department restructuring mandated by the $4.9 million RhodeWorks infrastructure legislation passed in 2016. The restructuring, he said, has increased the department’s efficiency and responsiveness on the more than 100 projects worth approximately $900 million currently underway in Rhode Island.

“We’ve gone from being 50 percent on time, on budget over four years ago to 90 percent on time, on budget,” he said. “We have a staff that’s dedicated not only to making sure these projects are successful, (but) that they fit into the cities and towns.”

Ellen Puccetti, owner of Wright’s Dairy Farm, said the project had a small impact on the business’s sales as regular customers from the other side of the bridge found elsewhere to buy their pastries and milk, but added RIDOT officials remained in communication with her throughout the project and were able to minimize the impact.

“All in all, it had to be done, so we were just glad it opened a month in advance and before Christmas,” she said.

The impact of local bridge closures has not been so light for businesses located in Slatersville, where several business owners have expressed concern about the impact of the prolonged closure of the Stone Arch Bridge, and one former restaurant owner told The Breeze in April the construction was partly to blame for a decision to close his business after eight years. While work is scheduled to continue into the summer, the bridge is expected to open to traffic by the end of this month.

“We’re really trying to get it open before Christmas. We’re all working toward that goal,” said RIDOT Chief Public Affairs Officer Charles St. Martin.

In response to a question about addressing residents’ concerns regarding future projects, including a partial closure of the Great Road Branch River Bridge scheduled to begin next April, Alviti said the department’s new restructuring will continue to keep projects moving efficiently and transparently in the future.

“We’ve done that here, we’re doing that on other projects and we’ll continue to do that,” he said.

Comments

Every time we go by the Stone Arch Bridge nobody there or working.