PROVIDENCE – After three years of planning and construction, the city of Pawtucket celebrated the completion of the $83 million Pawtucket River Bridge at a dedication and naming ceremony on Thursday.
The finally cost of the project, which involved building or rehabilitating nine bridges in Pawtucket, totaled $21 million less than what the state initially budgeted, according to the R.I. Department of Transportation.
“Some may see this bridge carrying I-95 as merely a way for cars and trucks to go from Point A to Point B,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien in prepared remarks. “But Richard Kazarian and the rest of the city’s bridge design committee always saw it as something more. They successfully sought a design that would provide a link between the Pawtucket of today and our proud historic heritage.”
Kazarian, who headed the local design committee that worked with RIDOT to enhance the bridge’s architectural elements, spoke about its connections to the history of Pawtucket in his address at the dedication ceremony.
“Our purpose was not to dwell on the past, but rather to draw from it,” Kazarian said. “By employing the use of the powerful wings that distinguish the entry of our City Hall and sit atop its steeple, we have sought to forever link our historic past and to our rising future.”
Also attending the ceremony were RIDOT Director Michael Lewis, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin and R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
Originally known as Bridge 550, the Pawtucket River Bridge was built to replace one built in 1958 that raised safety concerns regarding its load-bearing capacity. The bridge’s deficiencies forced RIDOT to impose a weight restriction on the bridge and implement a major truck detour.
In 2010, RIDOT broke ground on the project, and a year later began construction on the three steel arches for the first element of the new bridge. Over the next three years of construction, the project led to a series of detours and closures of nearby routes. In his address Thursday, Grebien thanked local residents and business for their patience throughout the process.
RIDOT estimates that 80 percent of the $82.9 million bridge project was financed by the Federal Highway Administration and 20 percent by RIDOT.
“In just three years, we’ve turned this situation around and transformed the bridge into a crown jewel for the city that will provide an opportunity to attract local economic development and improve quality of life for local residents,” RIDOT Director Michael Lewis said, in a release.
The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, in collaboration with the city of Pawtucket, RIDOT and the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call newspapers, will host a block party in celebration of the first full lighting of the bridge on Saturday, Sept. 7.
The event, called “First Lights,” will begin at 5 p.m. underneath the new bridge, at the corner of Taft Street and Jenks Way. Attendants will enjoy music, raffle prizes, food and beverages provided by Doherty’s Irish Pub, according to the tourism council website.
In addition, the BVTC is selling tickets to view the lighting ceremony from aboard one of six authentic Chinese Dragon Boats, which will be part of the official ceremonies. Tickets cost $10 per person and are available by calling the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council at (401) 724-2200.
The lighting countdown will begin at 7 p.m. The bridge’s LED lights are capable of 16 million color combinations, and will change to reflect the colors of seasonal holidays, according to a release by Grebien’s office.