PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Firefighters spent several hours knocking down a fire that erupted from the Crook Point Bascule Bridge Tuesday night, which could be seen burning for miles over the Seekonk River.
R.I. Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti tells 12 News they’re still trying to assess the bridge’s condition and determine whether the fire has created any safety concerns.
“This is not the only fire that’s been on that bridge,” he said. “We’ve had several fires on the bridge before, but we still don’t know if the bridge has been altered in any way [by this fire].”
The 113-year-old railroad bridge was abandoned in 1976 and left open to allow boats to travel through the river.
It was initially scheduled to be demolished, but spared when the Providence Preservation Society placed it on its list of most endangered properties.
Since the bridge is unusable, the city of Providence began soliciting ideas for repurposing it late last year. The winning proposal was announced in early June, which calls for the installation of glowing light bars that would display rotating artwork installations in place of the bridge’s current railroad ties.
But now that plan, like the bridge, is up in the air.
In a statement, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city plans to “work with public safety and others to determine the best course of action to ensure safe preservation and restoration of the landmark and surrounding area.”
Alviti said there are three different options for the bridge’s future, which are based on its condition.
He said if the bridge is salvageable, the plan to repurpose the bridge will move forward. But if the structure is compromised, Alviti said the city must decide whether they want to repair or demolish it.
“It would be nice if the bridge were not damaged structurally and we can go ahead with the plans with the city, but the fact is, safety comes first,” he said.
Alviti said they’ve already conducted an initial assessment of the bridge using a drone, but a specialty bridge crew will perform a physical inspection on Thursday.
A decision on the bridge’s condition will be rendered once that inspection is completed, according to Alviti.
“We’ll let the engineers do what they do best and then we’ll make a decision,” he said. “We’ll be expediting that. I’m hopeful we’re talking days, not weeks, but I’m not going to pressure the engineers to make premature judgments or assessments.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation at this time.