EAST PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is not...is not involved in any significant manner with the water pipe replacement project planned on Pawtucket Avenue in front …
EAST PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is not...is not involved in any significant manner with the water pipe replacement project planned on Pawtucket Avenue in front of East Providence High School and adjacent to the Shoppers Town Plaza.
Charles St. Martin, RIDOT's Chief of Public Affairs, contacted The Post mid-day Wednesday, Sept. 20, to adamantly clarify his department is "not dictating," nor is it "delaying" the project in any meaningful way. And to describe the situation as such would be "inaccurate."
St. Martin was responding to a story posted on The Post's page at eastbayri.com, updating the effort, which the RIDOT spokesperson called "a city project." St. Martin added, the only direct input from RIDOT, because Pawtucket Avenue is a state-owned road, was the granting of a utility permit.
(Editor's note: An updated version of this story did not meet the Post's print deadline for the September 21 edition. The update was placed on eastbayri.com and will run in the September 28 paper.)
The story in question quoted East Providence School Department Director of Facilities Chris Murphy extensively, including comments he made to the School Committee at its September 12 meeting and in follow-up communications.
At the meeting, Murphy told the body the improvements to Pawtucket Avenue were set to begin in earnest on Monday, Sept. 18. The director said new water lines were about to be installed.
However, at a follow-up meeting between local and state officials later that same week, the School District was told the start of the project was being postponed until at least the middle of October when in its estimation the "weather will be more stable," according to the recollection of EPHS Principal Bill Black, who was among the city/school administrators in attendance.
Murphy echoed Black's memory about the weather and also forwarded an explanation from the Pare Corporation engineering firm, which read as follows: "The reason for postponing the final paving is to allow more time for our excavations to settle under the weight of traffic. This will provide a better final paved surface.
"We normally build this timeframe into the construction schedule but we did not in this instance in an effort to complete all work before the start of school. Since we weren’t able to complete work before school started, we took this opportunity to reconsider the schedule for the betterment of the project and the final paved surface."
When made aware of RIDOT's reaction to the story, Murphy clarified his comments somewhat, saying the effort was a "city project with what you would call state oversight" because it is being done on Pawtucket Avenue.
The director said, however, state officials have been involved in at least a handful of meetings held on the project in the last eight to 12 months. He added as well, the project is under the constraints of state guidelines for road construction, saying the contractors will have a tight time frame to meet a deadline of November 15, when all street repair must end. The water replacement project, including the time the concrete poured needs to cure, is expected to take about a month to complete.
Regardless of who is conducting the endeavor, the project is expected to impact traffic dramatically at the morning and afternoon rush hours on the one of the city's two main arteries, as was the case in recent days as some preparatory work was done.
Of note, Pawtucket Avenue at East Providence High School and the entrance to the Shoppers Town plaza will become a two-lane road, down from four, with the installation of jersey barriers on each side of the extremely busy street: one lane headed north and the other south.