The span is hardly 20 feet, but the Mill Creek Bridge on Tidewater Drive is an important link to the Riverview and Longmeadow neighborhoods of Warwick.
But the bridge, built in 1928, is in an advanced stage of deterioration. If it were to close, all traffic would have to be re-routed to Draper Avenue, causing some people to drive an extra two miles.
That’s already happening for some fire apparatus, sanitation trucks and RIPTA buses; a 5-ton limit for dual-axel vehicles was implemented in 2006.
The bridge’s condition has been on the city’s radar for years and in 2006, and again in 2007, it advertised for bids to replace the span over Buckeye Brook. But the city didn’t have the money to do the job.
Now the city hopes to gain a Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund loan of $1.6 million from the state for the work.
According to the city’s application, prepared by Eric Hindinger, engineering program manager for the Department of Public Works, plans for a new 44-foot-wide bridge with about double the 18-foot span were completed in 2006. Gordon A. Archibald, Inc. did the plans. The project is ready to go, which is a consideration for the application.
The bridge has been designed to incorporate “a sleeve” to accommodate a sewer lateral if the sewer system is extended to Riverview, Longmeadow and Highland Beach, as proposed by the Warwick Sewer Authority.
Could the Mill Creek Bridge be a project for city crews that replaced Danger Bridge on Sea View Avenue in Oakland Beach this past summer? At a fraction of what it would have cost if done by a private contractor?
DPW Director David Picozzi doesn’t question the capabilities of his men, but he has reservations.
Work, as was done with the Oakland Beach project, would have to take into consideration tidal flow. At low tide, out-flowing water from the brook is knee deep, if not shallower. At high tide, however, it can be more than eight feet.
As was done when department crews replaced a bridge over Hardig Brook, Picozzi said pumps could be installed to maintain the brook’s flow around dams, so that the bridge abutments could be replaced. But the brook also poses environmental issues, as it is one of the state’s largest unimpeded herring runs.
The spawning run is in the spring, so work would need to be done over the summer.
Whether done privately or by the city, Picozzi said the bridge would be closed for an extended period. If the city were to do it, it would divert attention from other projects. Nonetheless, the prospect of a low-cost loan has city officials interested. Warwick isn’t the only municipality looking at the program.
Following the Oct. 15 deadline for applications, Speaker of the House Gordon Fox and General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo said the new fund generated applications from 13 municipalities requesting $29 million. The program, created and passed as part of the 2013 session, was quickly implemented by the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency and the Department of Transportation.
The goal of the Road and Bridge Revolving Fund is to take direct action on economic growth while improving Rhode Island's locally maintained roads and bridges.
"As leaders, our top priority is getting our economy moving again," Raimondo said at the time. "By implementing an innovative and cost-saving alternative for cities and towns to finance their road and bridge improvements, we are supporting an important economic cornerstone for our state and creating jobs."
The Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund is administered by the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency. The General Assembly budget included $7 million to start the fund. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation will now prioritize the submissions from an engineering perspective. Clean Water is expected to make decisions by the beginning of 2014, in time for the spring construction season.
Criteria include the extent to which the project generates economic benefits; the ability of the project to proceed at an early date; the likelihood that it would improve mobility; and that it would improve safety and could proceed in 2014.
Hindinger believes the Mill Creek Bridge project qualifies on all counts.