GLOCESTER — Only a week ago, work on the $1.2 million Chestnut Hill Road Bridge rehabilitation project appeared to be progressing on schedule with a targeted completion date of September.
But a recent snafu involving the contractor for the project now has town and state officials, including Sen. Paul W. Fogarty, worried the bridge will not be completed on time.
Fogarty said Thursday that the low bidder on the project, Shire Corporation, was abruptly pulled from the project when their insurance company placed them in default. A new contractor must now be found for the project, he said.
Fogarty said he called Department of Transportation Director Michael P. Lewis this week to express his frustration with delays in the project and the lack of information regarding the reason for those delays. He also reiterated his demand that the bridge be constructed on time.
"I have been in regular contact with the DOT, which assured me that work would not stop and that the project would be completed by their Sept. 30 deadline," said Fogarty. "But work has ground to a halt, and I have received very little information from DOT about why."
"The lack of bridge access has been a major inconvenience for residents and businesses in the area since it closed a year ago," Fogarty continued. "In my conversations with the department I expressed that it is absolutely imperative that work be completed on time. Residents and merchants who have been severely impacted by this bridge closure deserve action, not excuses."
In January, town leaders and residents voiced their frustrations about the lack of work being done on the bridge. At that time, Shire Construction was 70 days behind schedule.
The latest development elicited strong words from Fogarty.
"I don't care if they have to work 24 hours a day to finish the job and Director Lewis has to hold a flashlight while they're working at night, I want to see the bridge completed by Sept. 30," he said.
The bridge was closed in September 2010 as a new span is built over the Chepachet River. The bridge extends Chestnut Hill Road over the Chepachet River in Glocester.
The project includes a complete replacement of the bridge, wetland restoration, and construction of a replacement spillway structure beside the bridge.
The 102-year-old span is structurally deficient because of deteriorated steel girders. The current bridge has a weight limit of 6 tons, which prohibits trucks, emergency response vehicles and school buses.
Federal stimulus money is paying for the work to the bridge, which was last rehabilitated in 1954.
During the project, detour routes are being used by motorists, including Putnam Pike and Pine Orchard Road. A detour map can be found on RIDOT's website.
After work on the bridge is complete, the DOT plans to completely repave Putnam Pike and build new sidewalks on it over the course of 2012 and 2013.
In the meantime, construction has just begun on the Chepachet River Bridge on Putnam Pike in the middle of downtown Chepachet. That project will include replacement of the crumbling sidewalks on both sides of the bridge and the addition of new ornamental railings along them.
Construction is expected to be finished before construction season ends in the fall.