Timeline emerges for answers on what it will take to fix it

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According to state Representative Jason Knight, a Democrat representing Barrington, Alviti said they’d have a sense of the plan to get the bridge back open by late February or mid-March, when consultant reports come back.
PROVIDENCE — State transportation officials provided a timeframe of late February to mid-March for the next major update on what to do about the Washington Bridge westbound, according to lawmakers who were briefed Friday.
“I think that they’ll have a sense of direction,” Knight said. “It’s almost like they’ll know what the beginning looks like.”
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State Senator Val Lawson, who represents part of East Providence, described the late February to mid-March timeline as a tentative one, and provided a similar account to Knight’s about the call.
RIDOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. In a briefing earlier this week, Alviti declined to offer specifics on when the state would know what to do about the bridge, but said it would be in the near term.
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The Washington Bridge westbound between East Providence and Providence, which carries Interstate 195 over the Seekonk River, was closed on Dec. 11 after the state discovered major structural deficiencies. Temporary westbound lanes were opened on the eastbound side — which is actually a totally separate structure and unaffected by these deficiencies — but cities and towns around the closure have continued to deal with major traffic problems.
RIDOT originally provided an estimate of three months or more to get the bridge repaired, but that is now out the window. Meanwhile it’s now possible, though not certain, that the entire bridge could have to be rebuilt. If the late February to mid-March timeline is correct, it would be three months since the closure for the state to determine a sense of what direction will be required.
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Knight said Alviti briefed legislators on the work that’s going on now, which will be relevant no matter what option is chosen, so it’s not like the work will begin once they have a sense of the plan — it will be already underway.
“Coming away from this meeting, I’m pleased I have a lot more detailed information,” Knight said. “It helps me understand and communicate better with my constituents. I hope we see, and I expect we will see, continued aggressive efforts on part of DOT to solve the problem but also mitigate all the problems that come out of it, such as the traffic delays.”
Lawson said she and other lawmakers underscored the need to continually work on traffic flow. For some people who live on Orchard Street, it can take 25 minutes just to get out of their driveway.
“We need to do better with this,” Lawson said.
She said RIDOT agreed to regularly brief lawmakers about the bridge situation.
“I think we’re all better served when we’re working together,” Lawson said.
See more coverage of the Washington Bridge closure in R.I.
Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him @bamaral44.

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