BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite the rain, a group of dedicated workers put on harnesses and dangled from the Mount Hope Bridge Tuesday morning.
The stunt was part of a demonstration by members of WindWinRI, a program for highschoolers operated through the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, to show how a grant is helping the state’s economy.
Anyone who wants to work on an offshore wind farm or a bridge has to know how to rappel up and down with ropes and harnesses. The state recently provided WindWinRI grant money to train and certify 16 people through the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT).
“It’s a great opportunity for [recruits] to have that skill set. It’s a transferable skill – and just one of several that’s needed in this industry,” Executive Director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce Kristin Urbach said.
The 16 recruits are being trained both this week and next, and some have already been hired.
Director of engineering at the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, Eric Offenberg, said the training is crucial for people who work on bridges – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“In order for us to maintain these bridges, we’re constantly painting them, replacing steel, doing maintenance work. We have people on the bridges at all times,” he said.
Offenberg said plenty of upkeep is necessary not just for the Mount Hope Bridge, but for all bridges across the state.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of the Newport Pell Bridge,” he said. “Between these two iconic structures – one 50 years old and one 90 years old – a lot of maintenance has to be done.”
This week is also American Wind Week, which is a celebration of wind as a source of renewable energy. The American Wind Energy Association said the industry employs some 114,000 people.