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A Hummel Report Investigation

Cracks in the Concrete

Over the past decade, while the new Barrington Bridge became the poster child for what could go wrong with a state construction project, the smaller Warren Bridge half a mile down Route 114 largely escaped public scorn and scrutiny. It opened a month before its more famous neighbor to the north, but The Hummel Report has discovered that even before the first car crossed the new pavement, the state and contractor were faced with cracks in some of the concrete, which you can see in this week’s video. How serious is it? Jim Hummel goes to the state Department of Transportation for answers.

SCRIPT

For years it was a way of life for motorists in the East Bay.

Construction delays and traffic tie-ups on the Barrington Bridge, and the smaller Warren Bridge half a mile to the south. Many people breathed a collective sigh of relief when the two replacement bridges finally opened last summer – albeit years behind schedule and millions of taxpayer dollars over budget.

But even before the Warren Bridge opened to traffic in late July….there was a problem.

``The sidewalk as you approach to the bridge is perfect – you get to the bridge, it’s all cracked up.’’
Joe DePasquale lives a block from the bridge and had a front-row seat for four years of construction.
Long before it was opened to foot or vehicle traffic he noticed cracks in the sidewalks, and other cracks that travelled from the sidewalks down the side of the bridge to the ground; or into the water. We first took a look in October.

``I’ve had visitors come to the bridge – I live right next door – and as I work in my yard they’ve stopped and chastised me and asked me, `What the hell is wrong with all the cracks in the bridge?’’’  he said.
So DePasquale, who is also a Warren Town Councilman, approached the DOT engineer overseeing the Aetna Bridge Company, which was awarded the construction contract.

``They were treating it as cosmetic, the top two inches. I brought it to their attention; again not being an engineer, but the cracks go straight through, you can see them, you can follow them. They’re not a mystery, they’re right there.’’

Jim Hummel: ``So what does the DOT, which still has not signed off on this bridge with Aetna, have to say about the cracks and how serious they may be?’’

`` What we are saying is that on this project there was some cracking developing and we understand that. We’re not happy with it. But it is a reality of the construction we did.’’

We sat down last week with the DOT’s chief engineer, Frank Corrao – who insists none of the cracks is structural. He said Aetna poured the concrete to the state’s specifications and they don’t have a specificreason why it has cracked in some places.

Hummel: ``What’s been the contractor’s reaction to this?’’ Carrao: ``He’s as concerned as we are and he is going to do everything possible that when he’s done and he leaves that project – we have not accepted it yet - when he leaves that project it will be a sound, aesthetically pleasing project that will service the state of Rhode Island for many years to come.’’

Carrao admits `aesthetically pleasing’ are probably not the first two words that come to mind right now. Several weeks ago Aetna had a sealant put down on the sidewalks that has left them looking - like this.
Hummel: ``When you walk over that bridge it looks horrible.’’ Carrao:  ``Yes.’’ Hummel: ``Would you agree with that assessment?’’ Carrao: ``We are not pleased with the way it looks right now. We’ve informed the contractor of that and they are going to get the manufacturer back.’’

The Hummel Report obtained a memo that shows Aetna and the DOT have known about the problem since July and pledged to fix it. But five months later and with the winter cold setting in, it is unlikely the problem will be totally addressed until sometime next spring.

So far the company has been paid all but a million dollars of the $15.5 million cost. Corrao says taxpayers will not pay for any of the fixes, which will be absorbed by Aetna.  As for the cracks?

``The goal is you don’t want them but if they’re there you don’t want water to get inside those cracks because we have the freeze/thaw cycles because of temperature changes and as a result, when that water expands, if it gets trapped in there is where you’ll start to see concrete deteriorate quicker.’’

And in case you’re scoring at home: the much-maligned Barrington Bridge – which deservedly got the lion’s share of bad publicity over the past decade because of construction delays and cost overruns – has sidewalks that look….well, brand new.

In Warren, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.

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