‘Be real with the public’ RI officials react after no bids come in to rebuild Washington Bridge

‘Be real with the public’: RI officials react after no bids come in to rebuild Washington Bridge

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Elected officials reacted with disappointment and resignation Wednesday to news that no bidders had expressed interest in building the new westbound Washington Bridge.

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The R.I. Department of Transportation plans to go back to the drawing board and write a new solicitation after the noon deadline came and went without a single company offering to do the project. The Herculean job involves a more than $300 million contract, including up to $10 million in incentives for early completion.

Gov. Dan McKee told 12 News the state expected a lack of interest in bidding due to the timeline set out by his administration, which called for the bridge to be built by August 2026.

“I think it was a very aggressive timeframe that we put in place, as well as the incentives to meet that timeframe and penalties if you didn’t meet that timeframe,” McKee said. “We’ve got to [put together] a more realistic timeframe to make sure bidders do bid on it.”

Despite the setback, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley told 12 News he remains optimistic the McKee administration will find a path forward.

“The sooner we can get this done, the better,” Smiley said. “That being said, the state has approved the demolition contract. That has to happen first anyway, so I’m hopeful this doesn’t mean that the actual work will be delayed.”

On the other side of the Seekonk River, East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva said he expects the administration to put together a more reasonable proposal that’s attractive to bidders.

“This is going to slow down and impact the timeline,” DaSilva said. “But I still believe in RIDOT and the governor — they want to get this done as quickly as anybody else.”

State Rep. Jason Knight expressed concern over the lack of interest, and urged the state to stop beating around the bush with prospective bidders.

The state needs to “recognize that it’s going to take some serious time, effort and money,” said Knight, D-Barrington. “Be real with our contractors and be real with the public. … Setting up timelines that nobody can meet doesn’t help anyone.”

The westbound side of the Washington Bridge abruptly closed last December after structural issues were discovered.

The westbound lanes have been shifted onto the eastbound side of the bridge for the time being, since it is an entirely different structure that is not impacted by the closure.

RIDOT has since opened an additional lane on both sides of the bridge in a bid to ease traffic congestion, which has plagued the I-195 corridor and created headaches for commuters.

Lauren Brill, Hannah Cotter, Ted Nesi and Alexandra Leslie contributed to this report.