The risk for pedestrians on the west side of the Pawtucket Avenue overpass at Interstate 195 has been removed.
A crew from the RI Department of Transportation removed on Thursday, Oct. 18, the concrete barriers and chain-link gate that blocked the sidewalk, said Steve Couto, director of public works in East Providence.
Pedestrians had been walking into traffic for years to cross the bridge and even jumping over the concrete barriers and into the street, creating the potential getting hit by a vehicle. East Providence Mayor Bruce Rogers began complaining about the situation several weeks ago.
David Fish, managing engineer for bridges at the RI Department of Transportation (RIDOT), said the barriers were put in place after a truck struck the overpass and damaged two beams on the west side of the overpass. But RIDOT did not eliminate a traffic lane; it only shut down the sidewalk.
Most of the weight on the damaged beams still came from vehicles, however, not pedestrians. And the concrete barriers on the sidewalk weigh thousands of pounds -- far more than pedestrians using the sidewalk.
Fish pledged on Oct. 19 after a conversation with East Providence Patch about the situation to send out a traffic safety crew to assess any dangers associated with the closed sidewalk. See the Patch story on Oct. 11. The result was Thursday’s removal of the barriers to using the sidewalk.
The overpass itself, Fish said, will not be repaired. It will be replaced completely in the spring of 2014 – over one weekend.
Accelerated construction techniques that were used to build the I-Way in Providence will be applied to the overpass, he said. Those techniques involve using self-propelled modular transporters that can lift incredibly heavy loads, he said.
In other words, the bridge will be built in a nearby field, wheeled to the location, and then lifted into place by the modular transporters.
“We can get the bridge built and open over a weekend,” Fish said.