RIDOT: Lack of snow leads to expedited construction projects


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been a pretty mild winter so far, but that doesn’t mean the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) isn’t busy.

David Fish, the agency’s division administrator for project management, said they’re working on 42 active projects.

How does that number compare?

Fish told Eyewitness News that is four-times the normal amount of projects completed during a “typical” winter.

“What it does is, it allows us to gain time on some of these projects,” Fish said. “Potentially if we have a good rest of the winter and have a good spring – it allows us to complete projects sooner.”

It also allows road crews to get off the road sooner, which is great for the traveling public.

Fish said there are some cost savings as well because contractors can work throughout the winter.

“It means we don’t have a field office that we don’t have to run for additional months,” he said.

One project that has received a leg-up this winter, according to Fish, is the reconstruction of the Route 6/10 connector.

“They’re demolishing bridges – I think the Toby Street and Westminster and Broadway will all have some demolition operation go on during the winter,” Fish said. “They are out there excavating – there is a whole host of activities that are taking place that normally wouldn’t take place if it was a cold – snowy winter.”

Winter maintenance budget

Fish said RIDOT has deployed drivers for 10 storms this year, costing roughly $7 million. This is a third of the agency’s $21 million winter maintenance budget.

Spring officially arrives March 19, but that doesn’t mean the region will remain snow-free up until then.

“At the end of last year, we had an additional six storms and spent $11.6 million in winter clean-up,” Fish said.

But when there are leftover funds, where does it go?

“That money will be reinvested into maintenance operations,” Fish said. “It will be keeping our bridges up to speed. Cleaning, washing, filling potholes, line striping – all of these activities. There is a backlog of activities to do in order to keep our infrastructure in a state of good repair.”

Repaving roads isn’t a winter project

Asphalt plants remain closed during the winter months, according to Fish.

“Asphalt placement really needs to be at 45°F and rising,” he explained.

Even if the region sees a warmer winter, Fish said those plants remain closed because it’s “too much of a risk.”

“It’s too costly for the contractor to take that risk and keep them open through winter – they never know what conditions are going to be,” Fish said.

Even though the asphalt plants are closed, potholes are still being filled, according to Fish.

“They use a different type of material to fill the potholes – it’s called ‘cold patch,'” Fish explained. “The ‘cold patch’ enables RIDOT to temporarily fix the problem.”

“It’s not as long-lasting as the ‘hot patch’ mix, but when we have to get out there to fill a pothole we will fill it with the ‘pothole killer’ or the ‘cold patch’ material,” he said.

What are the plow drivers doing?

Despite the lack of snow, Fish said plow drivers are still keeping busy.

“There is a host of maintenance activities that they are doing,” he said. “For instance, they will be cutting brush, cleaning catch basins, picking up litter.”

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