PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s a familiar sight: the bridge that, for 43 years, has been in an upright position over the Seekonk River.
It’s known formally as the Crook Point Bascule Bridge and now — more than a century after it was built — the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT) says the time has come for the deteriorating bridge to be torn down.
Records show the bridge was built in 1907 as part of the New Haven, New York and Hartford Railroad. The 850 feet of track connected East Providence and Providence, providing passenger and freight train access to and from the old Union Station.
Fast forward to the mid-1970s, when the bridge was abandoned due to declining use. It was put in its upright position in 1976 to allow large boats to pass.
Stephen Devine, the administrator of RIDOT’s Transit Office, says the mechanism to lower the bridge does not function anymore, so it’s been left that way ever since.
As years turned into decades, RIDOT finally decided to take action.
Tucked into the state’s latest 10-year transportation improvement plan known as RhodeWorks, which became law in 2016, $6 million is earmarked to demolish the Crook Point Bridge in 2026-27.
“There is definitely a need to take it down,” Devine said. “People can get hurt, there are liability issues, it’s in bad shape.”
The reason: there is an access point from Gano Street in Providence that attracts many people. The aging structure is covered in graffiti, and there are a number of videos posted online showing people climbing the bridge.
The fence that is supposed to block access has been cut several times over the years. RIDOT says maintenance crews need to repair the fence often.
“Unfortunately, people find a way to either get around it, get through it,” Devine added. “So it continues to be an attractive nuisance.”
According to the Providence Police Department, emergency crews have responded to the Crook Point Bridge 17 times since 2014. Of that, 11 calls were for people on the bridge.
Providence officials have different hopes for the bridge. A spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city would like to see it preserved, not torn down.
“The historic Crook Point Bridge is a landmark,” the spokesperson said. “We are engaging with RIDOT in hopes that they would consider transferring the bridge to the city in the future.”
Brent Runyon, executive director of the Providence Preservation Society, said he would also like to see the bridge preserved. He believes it may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s something that I think a lot of people identify with as an icon of Providence’s skyline,” Runyon said. “For us, to see the first idea is demolition is really startling to us. To lose the bridge would really sort of unlink us from that rail history as well as the East Side Tunnel, which I think we all hope can be reused someday.”
Repurposing some of the bridge is not out of the question. Although the majority of the structure would need to be torn down, according to Devine, the piers could potentially be reused.
“Perhaps by keeping the piers it lends itself for an opportunity in the future,” Devine said.
RIDOT officials say they will work with preservation groups, the cities of Providence and East Providence, and the U.S. Coast Guard during the demolition process.