The new Sakonnet River Bridge is scheduled to open to Route 24 northbound traffic tomorrow, Sept. 20, eliminating the 18-ton weight limit for northbound traffic, announced the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) on Wednesday.
In about a week, the new bridge also will carry southbound traffic, according to the DOT.
“With tomorrow’s milestone opening of the new Sakonnet River Bridge to northbound traffic, we will reduce the lengthy detour that the motoring public has used over the past four years,” said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. “We thank the two host communities of Tiverton and Portsmouth for their continued patience and support during this project.”
The new bridge is 2,265 feet long and approximately 96 feet wide. There are two 12-foot lanes in each direction with wide shoulders. Mariners will find a wider passage under the bridge’s center span and the new bridge maintains the minimum vertical clearance over the river of 65 feet.
Once all traffic has been shifted to the new bridge, work will continue on approach roads on both sides of the span. Demolition of segments of the old bridge must take place before this work is finalized. RIDOT expects construction activities on the segments of Route 24 approaching the bridge to be ongoing through spring 2013.
All construction on the new bridge is expected to wrap up in 2013, including the opening of a bike path along the northern edge of the new bridge and the connecting paths to local streets on both sides of the bridge. Work on the bike path approach segments is expected to begin in Spring 2013.
The Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority is taking control of both the Sakonnet and Jamestown Bridges, adding to the Mount Hope and Newport Pell Bridges already under its authority. By statute, the authority must charge tolls on another bridge in order to maintain all four. The new Sakonnet Bridge seems most likely to be tolled, but the Mount Hope Bridge has also been under consideration for tolls.
The new Sakonnet River Bridge was slated to open in May, but structure safety concerns pushed back the deadline.
The project’s contractors, the Cardi Corp., are required by contract to pay the state $26,500 per day they go over the completion deadline. The bridge was expected to open on May 11.
Also in 2013, RIDOT expects to advertise for a construction project for the demolition of the old Sakonnet River Bridge.