2014-11-13 / Front Page

Work On Pell Barrier Begins Dec. 1

By Tom Walsh

Bridge mediun work to begin Dec. 1. Bridge mediun work to begin Dec. 1. The road to a safer Pell Bridge got shorter on Wednesday, Nov. 12, as the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) board of directors voted unanimously to award Aetna Bridge Company of Warwick a $5.9-million contract to build and install a permanent median barrier on the span.

Aetna will start work on the new median Dec. 1. The barrier will be finished in mid-April, according to RITBA.

“The installation of a permanent median barrier is now only possible due to the completion last month of major structural maintenance and repairs to the bridge,” said Stephen Waluk, RITBA board chairman. “This four-year-long, $85-million project included major steel repairs to the suspension spans and the east approach.”

A Christmas Eve crash last year that left two persons seriously injured heightened calls for RITBA to install a median barrier. Two years earlier, two people died in a similar crash that involved one vehicle veering into oncoming traffic.

With more than 27,000 vehicles crossing the Pell Bridge every day, the span is one of the most heavily trafficked roads in the southern portion of the state. Industry standards typically dictate that a medi an barrier be placed on any road when more than 20,000 vehicle trips per day take place.

The RITBA board voted unanimously last June to install what is known as a “moveable median barrier” to “provide safety and flexibility while avoiding the necessity of anchoring into the bridge deck.” The barrier will be anchored on land at both ends of the bridge.

RITBA said it studied median barrier options, load factors, weight, impact on travel lanes, installation techniques, safety and suitability of various barrier options with the bridge structure.

The barrier will be made up of 3,620 individual, interlinked concrete sections that will be specifically manufactured for the Pell Bridge project. The barrier will be painted “Newport blue” to match the existing bridge color. The bottom of the barrier will feature yellow reflective tape.

RITBA hired the engineering consulting firm of Parsons Brinkerhoff to develop bid specifications and evaluate responses. The consultants recommended Aetna Bridge Company, which has extensive experience in bridge construction, repair and maintenance—including current work on the Pell Bridge.

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