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State rep skeptical of turtle excuse with Sakonnet River Bridge delays

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Old Sakonnet River Bridge_235051

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – An East Bay lawmaker is accusing the R.I. Department of Transportation of dragging its feet on the demolition of the old Sakonnet River Bridge.

State Rep. Jay Edwards, D-Tiverton, said he has been given a long list of different excuses over the years when he asked why there have been delays in taking the rusting remains down.

“I say this is a process that should have started the day they broke ground on the other bridge,” Edwards said. “They should have started this years ago and now they are dragging it out.”

Back in 2012, when the new Sakonnet River Bridge opened to motorists traveling between Tiverton and Portsmouth on Route 24, state transportation officials said the old bridge would likely be torn down in a year.

Now three years later, transportation officials say they’ve been asked by the federal government to do an additional environmental review to “ensure protection of endangered species including the Green Sea Turtle, the Leatherback Sea Turtle and the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, as well as the marine life including Loggerhead Sea Turtles and Atlantic Sturgeon,” according to RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin.

The state hopes to put the project out to bid in the fall, which would put the start of the 18-month demolition in the spring of 2017, he said.

“It’s always something that another group is doing to them or blocking them from getting the bridge demolished,” Edwards said. “The problem we have here is if we don’t do it soon, we’re going to end up with what we had in Jamestown.”

The old Jamestown Bridge was closed in 1992 when its newer successor was opened to traffic, but it took 14 years for the state to bring it down.

Edwards said not only is the old Sakonnet Bridge an eyesore, it also poses a safety risk.

“There are parts of that bridge you can put your hand through, and I don’t want to have something rust away to the point where part of it collapses,” Edwards said.

St. Martin acknowledged the old bridge has not been inspected since it was taken offline in August 2012. He said the next scheduled inspection is expected to be in early 2016. Tim White( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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