With Washington Bridge RFPs now out, lawmakers continue push for transparency

THE R.I. DEPARTMENT of Transportation has launched the search for construction firms to tear down and rebuild the westbound Washington Bridge — with a total of $13 million in incentives to expedite the work. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ WILLIAM HAMILTON

The R.I.  Department of Transportation has launched the search for construction firms to tear down and rebuild the westbound Washington Bridge — with a total of $13 million in incentives to expedite the work.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers wasted no time Tuesday afternoon in pushing for more transparency from RIDOT on the status of what’s being done to replace the bridge connecting East Providence and Providence via Interstate 195.

After little discussion, the Senate Committee on Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight voted 8-0 to advance legislation mandating RIDOT publish a monthly report with updates on the response to the partial closure of the bridge to a full vote Thursday. The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Valarie Lawson, an East Providence Democrat.

Under Lawson’s bill, RIDOT’s report must include an updated timeline on the fate of the bridge, a list of all contractors, average traffic delay times, costs associated with the closure and repair project, along with data of bridge-related vehicle accidents.

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The first report would be required to be published within 30 days of the legislation being signed into law and reports would continue to be released on the first of each month until the bridge is rebuilt — a process state officials anticipate will last through summer 2026.

Sen. Jake Bassillion, a Providence Democrat, was not present for Tuesday’s committee vote.

Twenty minutes after the Senate committee vote, the House State Government and Elections Committee voted 13-0 to approve companion legislation sponsored by Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian, an East Providence Democrat.

“My number goal and the goal of all the reps in the East Bay has been about getting as much information as possible so they can make their plans accordingly,” Kazarian said in an interview after the committee vote. “They deserve the right to know what’s going on with this bridge.”

Reps. Jacquelyn Baginski, a Cranston Democrat, and Patricia Morgan, a West Warwick Republican, were not present for Tuesday’s vote.

Should the House and Senate bills pass, RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin said the department “will certainly provide the requested information in accordance with the legislation.”

“RIDOT continues to provide regular updates to the general public related to the bridge and meets weekly with East Bay legislators to provide updates on the bridge,” St. Martin said via email.

Indeed, RIDOT posted details on its replacement timeline in two separate requests for proposals posted online. The first, seeking bidders to demolish the bridge, was published Friday afternoon, followed Tuesday by a second call for bids to replace the bridge.

The demolition process is divided into four parts: the Gano Street ramp, west end of the bridge, east cantilever spans, and east end of the structure.

“The demolition of the Washington Bridge Westbound superstructure shall be performed to avoid damage to the existing substructure and the adjacent bridge,” the full RFP reads.

The RFP notes that the existing substructure “shall remain in place for the potential repair and reuse” in the reconstruction of the bridge. The firm hired to demolish the bridge is responsible for any damage caused by their operations and demolition debris to these elements, according to the RIDOT’s request.

Final bids are due June 21, with a tentative contract to be awarded by June 28.

RIDOT is offering up to $3 million for completing the demolition ahead of the projected March 2025 date. But contractors face a $3 million penalty if the project falls behind schedule.

To attract as many bids as possible, the RFP offers $100,000 to the second- and third-place bidders.

State officials previously said the bridge should be complete between March and September of 2026. But in its request for proposals (RFP) published online Tuesday, RIDOT is aiming for the project to be complete in August 2026.

“The more lanes opened for both eastbound and westbound traffic, the higher per-day rate the selected design-build team can earn,” the department said in a statement Tuesday.

RIDOT also plans to impose a $30,000 daily “disincentives” for missing the completion date.

The state is asking for contractors to design five through lanes of travel over the new bridge, a new on-ramp from Gano Street, and a new off-ramp to Waterfront Drive.

Final proposals are due July 3 and the winning bid is expected to be picked later that month, according to RIDOT.

Christopher Shea is a staff writer for the Rhode Island Current.

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