Work on the Apponaug Circulator has been in progress for years. Buildings and trees have come down. The course of a new road connecting Veterans Memorial Drive to the intersection of Centerville and Toll Gate Roads is clearly visible and the project to alleviate traffic congestion in Apponaug is finally under way.
But it wasn’t until this month that the clock “really” started ticking and construction started. And the ticking isn’t projected to stop until the fall of 2017. By that time, five roundabouts will replace Apponaug’s major intersections; two-way traffic will be restored to Veterans Memorial Drive; and traffic in the village center will be significantly reduced, to create a more pedestrian friendly environment.
Between now and then, Apponaug is going to be humming … and, most likely, will become a place you’ll want to avoid.
Motorists got a taste of what’s to come last week as barrels, orange cones and construction signs encroached on Post Road and the West Shore Road underpass. In the island at William’s Corner, florescent-vested workers wielding pick axes and shovels worked alongside a backhoe. Yesterday, crews were marking underground utilities for the start of excavation, according to Steve Mason of Cardi Corporation.
Frank Corrao, director of construction for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, explained Friday the relocation of utilities, including underground gas and water lines and utility poles and electrical wiring. The Kent County Water Authority and National Grid are taking advantage of the project to update aging water and gas lines in the area.
Within the month, the former Bank America building will be demolished. The city is looking to save the granite steps to the building, as well as the weather vane and a bronze plaque from when it was Industrial National Bank.
Richard Crenca of the planning department, who is tracking the project for the city, said the steps and sidewalk granite curbing would go to the Department of Public Works for use in city projects. The weather vane and plaque, vestiges of the village’s past, could be put on display. Meanwhile, crews will remove an underground storage tank from the former Apponaug Mill property.
The water tower – an icon of the village and symbol of the vibrant era when hundreds worked in the mill – will come down soon after the bank is leveled.
“The tower has to come down immediately, or it’s going to hold up construction,” said Crenca.
The city has issued Verizon a building permit for a cell phone tower near the police station that will house antenna now on the water tower. Crenca expects the new tower will rise quickly. Crews were preparing the site yesterday.
Cardi Corporation, one of three bidders, won the $29.9 million contract for the job, making it one of the larger ongoing DOT construction projects in the state. The work is to be done in phases, said Corrao, with one of the first steps being construction of the road to connect Veterans Memorial Drive and the Centerville and Toll Gate Road intersection. As that roundabout is completed, it will allow traffic to be diverted from Apponaug Four Corners for work on another roundabout. Roundabouts will also be at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Veterans Memorial Drive, Veterans Memorial Drive and the Post Road Extension, and at William’s Corner, west of the underpass.
Corrao said safety is a top priority, followed by traffic mobility. Lane restrictions will be minimized during the heavy commuter periods of 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m.
“We want to make sure there are no lane closures [during those times],” he said.
Crews will be working at night starting this week, Mason said.
Sequence of construction information and charts, distributed at a July 9 pre-construction meeting, outline the highly coordinated plan; from the relocation of the Apponaug River, which now flows under the mill property, to the removal of Gorton’s Pond sedimentation and the construction of roundabouts.
Progress and developments concerning the project will be posted on a DOT website. Crenca said he would attend monthly update meetings. He is working on a system to regularly check with the construction team.
“I like to know right away instead of getting surprises,” he said.
Village businesses have been sent letters informing them that work has started and provided contact information for the resident engineer. The project will be coordinated from offices in Summit Office Park.
Apponaug has long been a choke point for traffic.
As what was then considered a “temporary” solution, former Mayor Joseph Walsh came up with the one-way system implemented in the ’70s. Former Mayor Lincoln Chafee made a bypass a priority but it wasn’t until Chafee became senator that federal funds were earmarked for the project. The final chunk of funding came from a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.
Already, motorists are being reminded that village businesses will be open during construction. Signs are up.
Reminded of that fact and that there’s more than one place to get coffee in Apponaug, Corrao doesn’t expect work crews will bring a big boost to the local economy.
“They’re not going to have time for coffee, with all the work that has to be done,” he said.