NEWPORT CITY – During Monday's City Council meeting, officials from the Agency of Transportation presented the framework for what exactly will happen during the reconstruction of the Long Bridge.
The council also approved lifting the noise ordinance while the state paves US Route 5 from the Airport Road to Coventry Street so that crews may pave at night to reduce traffic tie-ups. Part of the paving project includes roads intended for the detoured traffic blocked from using the Long Bridge.
The bridge reconstruction has been in the works for 15 years, Project Manager Carolyn Carlson said. Construction will begin sometime in early 2012. The project will finish in 2013. Carlson estimated the cost of the project to be $6.5 million.
“It’s not a cheap project,” she said. “It’s a fairly large project. There’s a lot of stuff going into this structure.”
There may not be a lot of work for contractors next year, so bids may come in lower, which would reduce the cost, Carlson said.
The state restricts when construction crews can be in the water. According to Carlson, the contractor can work in the water between December and March and then from late May to October.
Originally, the city was going to take care of the traffic detour signs, but after talking to City Manager John Ward, the state agreed to take care of them. Carlson said she realizes the detour will create some traffic problems during the paving project.
Ward said there is some concern that traffic won’t be able to get to Bond Auto and Poulin Grain. Carlson assured the council that the contractor has to allow access to businesses, but at times access will be an issue.
“We know it will be an inconvenience, it will be a struggle, but I think if we all work together, once we have a contractor on board, the drive and parking should work out,” said Carlson. “That’s the best I can do. There’s just limited space.”
Ward the city won’t be able to solve the traffic problems that sometimes occur, especially on Friday nights. However, Carlson said people would figure other ways to get to Newport. For example, instead of taking Interstate-91, drivers could take the back roads.
Carlson’s response did not please Brian McNeal who lives on Mount Vernon Street. He said the city would not pay for his gas or time for him to make his way around the construction area.
“They don’t care about the taxpayers in this town,” said McNeal, who added that many of the Mount Vernon residents pay some of the highest tax rates.
Trish Sears, executive director of the Newport Renaissance Corporation, questioned if there would be signs on Coventry Street alerting traffic, particularly trucks, that the bridge is closed.
Carlson said it doesn’t matter if truck drivers know the bridge is closed because they aren’t supposed to use the Long Bridge.
“There shouldn’t be much of anything on that bridge,” said Carlson, who acknowledged that she is aware that trucks from Poulin Grain do use it. But, according to Sears, they aren’t the only truck drivers that use it.
“They’re not obeying the rules. That’s where Newport City is supposed to have their police officers stopping them,” Carlson said.
Carlson estimated the bridge would last about 200 years, which pleased Mayor Paul Monette who said, “Good! I’ll be long gone.” However, Carlson warned that the only way it will last that long is if the city maintains it; this includes washing away road salt in the spring.
Carlson said the existing bridge was built in the mid to late 1940s. “It hasn’t lived as long as some of our other bridges have, but there are other issues there. When all is said and done, you will have a beautiful bridge. It will make the Causeway Bridge look pretty ugly.”