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In fall of 2019, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) closed the two aging wooden trestle bridges that cross the Barrington and Palmer Rivers because of severe deterioration which made them unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians. Known as the East Bay Bike Path Bridges, they were built in the 1880s as railroad bridges and were converted to bike paths in the 1980s.
In 2014, RIDOT commissioned a design study as a precursor to replacing the two bridges and in 2016 allocated $10 million in its ten-year-plan for this project. The 2019 closure prompted a second evaluation of the bridges which found that the deterioration of both bridges was far worse than originally believed and that the cost of moving utilities was high. The cost to rebuild grew to about $20 million.
RIDOT is moving to create a plan that will contain the cost and provide a permanent, safe bike path. As this new plan develops, RIDOT put forward a plan that provided a safe, continuous path for cyclists that could be installed quickly and cost about $2 million. RIDOT suggested this as an interim solution as the department works toward a permanent solution. The town officials of both Warren and Barrington concurred with this plan and construction began in June 2021.
RIDOT is moving quickly to expedite a permanent, safe route across the two rivers that will be consistent with available funds.
Temporary Bike Path
With the ongoing closure of the East Bay Bike Path Bridges, we have been working to provide a safe way for bicyclists to cross the Barrington and Palmer Rivers. In May, we installed barrier along the sidewalks and enhanced the signing and striping on County Road, New Meadow Road and Sowams Road in Barrington. In early August, we installed a flashing beacon at the New Meadow Road crossing, and recently widened the sidewalks on New Meadow Road and Sowams Road before the start of school on Wednesday, September 8. During the school day, we have provided three police officers to assist those wishing to cross County Road as we work to widen the sidewalks along it. We are currently in the process of awarding a contract to install 8’ wooden planks on the Barrington and Warren Bridges and should have them and a protective barrier in place by the end of the year.
RIDOT continues to work on both engineering designs and financing opportunities for the East Bay Bike Path Bridges that would provide the best possible solution within our budget. Those two processes are ongoing, but we have developed some promising scenarios. RIDOT has asked a consultant to look at various approaches to a new bridge design. The consultant created several innovative designs, one of them would cost about $14 million to rebuild the bridges which is promising. While RIDOT currently has only $10 million in the ten-year plan to pay for both bridges we continue to look at additional sources of revenue, both State and Federal, to fill the gap. The $14 million solution is also contingent on our ability to reduce the cost of moving the utilities. RIDOT is working with National Grid to bring those costs down and is seeking their commitment before we proceed with a procurement process.