Construction on a $2 million pedestrian bridge over the Providence River is slated to begin by October 2011, said Providence Parks Department Superintendent Robert McMahon '68. Construction of the bridge — a collaboration between the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Providence Parks Department and William D. Warner Architects and Planners — represents one of the final stages of the Iway project, the relocation of I-195 and I-95.
The bridge will be built over the supports left behind once the old I-95 roadbed is removed, McMahon said.
The construction is expected to take six to nine months to complete, he said.
A Rhode Island School of Design student suggested reusing the support structures left over from the highway, said Lambri Zerva, the Department of Transportation's design project manager for the Iway project. The idea started to look more feasible to planners when they realized the unnecessary cost of removing the existing granite supports, Zerva said.
Construction is estimated to cost $2 million, and removing the piers would have cost an additional $2 million, he said. The state will also save money by not needing to build a foundation, he said.
The narrow strip of park on the eastern side of the river will be expanded south to Point Street, and a park on the western bank will be created as well. The parks will go through a more extensive design process once construction on the bridge has progressed further, Zerva said.
The bridge is still in the design phase, said William Warner, president of the architectural firm. Warner's firm is reviewing designs and making recommendations to the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge Committee.
Warner said they are trying to take into account sustainability and comfort for pedestrians in the bridge's design. It is also important for the bridge to complement other Providence bridges without copying them, he said.
"It shouldn't be monumental, it should be accommodating," he said, adding that the bridge also needs to allow boats to go underneath and be a graceful link between the two parks on the opposite sides of the river.
McMahon said it was important that the bridge provide another way to cross the river and connect park spaces in the city. But he added it was important for the bridge to become more than just another route — it could also become a new central gathering point for citizens, such as for farmers' markets, he said.