June 23, 2024

Rusted Eyesore Removed from EP Waterfront

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In September of 2019 City Councilman-at-Large Bob Rodericks introduced an ordinance seeking the removal of the abandoned India Point Railroad Bridge which had been used last in 1974.  The India Point Railroad Bridge was a swing bridge which spanned the Seekonk River, connecting the City of Providence, Rhode Island at India Point to the City of East Providence at Watchemoket.  The ordinance received unanimous passage from the City Council and support from U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed and Representative David Cicilline among others.  The original structure was a covered bridge built in 1835 for the Boston and Providence Railroad. After its closing, the United States Coast Guard eventually determined the bridge to be a navigational hazard. The City of Providence had ownership at one point but turned it over to the Federal Government. Providence had its half of the bridge removed.  That portion linked to the India Point Park area where an expansive waterfront park now exists with unobstructed views. Many other plans and years of discussion fell through for more use or demolition.  The rusting, dangerous remnants of the structure remained an eyesore and navigational hazard, keeping pleasure & business watercraft away from the East Providence side of the river.

“Area waterfront businesses were obstructed by its presence and are limited in plans to expand recreational, business, boating and public access to the waterfront. The East Providence Yacht Club has the bridge touching its recently renovated building, deck, docks and property. Open views of the waterfront are totally obstructed from many angles. Expansion of public boating is prohibited due to this bridge and underwater hazards. I have heard from many boaters who will not enter the cove for fear of this hazardous waterway,” said now Council President Rodericks.  “The Yacht Club at one point offered to put a deck on the bridge and paint it but the Army Corps of Engineers and other environmental agencies deemed it (bridge & pilings) a navigational hazard and wouldn’t allow the bridge deck.”  That being the case, Rodericks asked to have it removed.  Rodericks told anyone who would listen that the removal of the unsafe piers and bridge remnant would greatly increase the quality of East Providence's waterfront and the potential for an increase in Rhode Island tourism. RI Waterfront Events / Live Nation at Bold Point Park continue to see many popular events as one example cited. “Contrast this with the other side of the bay. One major result in the bridge removal is the beautiful India Point Park and recreation area on the Providence side. The East Providence side had been ignored for years.”

To the surprise of many, the remnant of the old bridge was carted away easily last month after only a couple of days’ work from the Army Corps of Engineers.  The bridge was taken away by barge, a short distance away to the Allen’s Avenue shipyard for disbursement of its steel. The project cost just over $1 million, which was funded and supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers.  A bidding procedure hired the J.F. Brennan Company to do the work.  The bridge was moved by barge in two separate days in a relatively “seamless effort.”   Old pilings and other hazardous underwater objects will also be removed shortly, giving a clear boating path to the East Providence shoreline.

Although the project did not cost East Providence taxpayers anything, there was a cost to the local East Providence Yacht Club which cooperated by taking out its current docks and removal of pilings to facilitate the demolition.  The Perry family, which owns the marina which has food and a recently renovated bar, received a low-interest loan from the City of East Providence.  The cost was about $50,000.  Mikel Perry is the principal owner of the Yacht Club which has been owned by his family for decades.  “I’ve been here a good portion of my life,” said Perry as he and his dad, Tony Perry, watched the bridge removal.  “We will add more docks and continue to be part of the waterfront revitalization going on in the city,” said the younger Perry.  Perry will soon be submitting the necessary permits needed to begin more renovations.

“This took a team of supporters to get this done,” said Rodericks.  “The support of Mayor Bob DaSilva and former Director of Planning & Economic Development, William Fazioli is really appreciated.  The East Providence Economic Development Commission (EDC) approved a loan to support this project. “The EDC continues to strive to prudently support projects that assist in the economic growth and development of our city,” EDC Chairwoman Michelle Botelho said in a recent press release. 

The Perrys and several onlookers watched as in an instant the last section of the rusted half bridge floated away from the shoreline.  Joining the crowd of onlookers were Mayor Bob DaSilva and Ward Four Councilman Rick Lawson. Both have been supporters of the project.  “I wasn’t sure it would ever happen,” said Bob Rodericks.  “I always believed that our East Providence waterfront has never realized its true potential. I am confident that the city has finally turned the corner of waterfront transformation which will benefit EP and indeed, Rhode Island. I want to thank my former and present council colleagues for their support and also thank the Perry family, Mayor Bob DaSilva, William Fazioli, our EDC and Waterfront Commission and our congressional delegation. Working together we can move East Providence forward. Much more can be done in this area. I can’t wait for the summer season,” he added.

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