A project to reconstruct a major bridge on Interstate 195 in Rhode Island uncovered a “critical failure” of anchor rods, leading to the emergency closing of the westbound side of the bridge indefinitely.
The failure was uncovered December 8 on the Washington Bridge in East Providence on anchor rods of the original bridge, which was built in 1968, according to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. (More photos of the damage can be seen at the end of this story.)
"In the process of reconstructing the Washington Bridge, our consultants found urgent safety issues that could cause a critical deficiency on this side of the bridge,” said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said. “We are closing the westbound side until we can make it completely safe."
Alviti also said closing the bridge had “averted a major catastrophe.”
Beginning December 11, the bridge was closed, and traffic was diverted from the closed westbound lanes to alternate routes. Over the next two to three weeks, traffic will be re-routed to two eastbound lanes so permanent repairs can begin on the west side, RIDOT says.
“Depending on the severity of what RIDOT finds in its initial work, the repair could take three months or more,” the agency says.
The Washington Bridge over the Seekonk River between East Providence and Providence carries 96,000 vehicles daily and experiences frequent traffic jams.
The total construction cost for the Washington Bridge reconstruction project, in which the failure was discovered, is $78 million. It involves addressing structural deficiencies on the westbound side, as well as a new exit to Waterfront Drive in East Providence and an additional through lane on the bridge.
The RIDOT has released photos of the structural failures found December 8 on the East Providence side of the westbound Washington Bridge.
The findings included deep spall with exposed vertical and horizontal rebar and debounded rebar in several places.
The base of a steel rod on the cantilever at pier 6 was mostly corroded away and the rod was bouncing under live load. There was also a gap about the size of the side of a clipboard between the cantilever and beam seat, and the cantilever end was bounding under live load.
On the pier 7 cantilever, a steel rod was sheared at the top, and the rod’s tiedown had failed. Only about 1-inch in diameter remained near the rod’s base. A steel rod was also sheared near the base, and there was a gap between the cantilever end and the seat.
Here are photos of the damage released by the RIDOT: