Road Closed: Construction and paving will make navigating Newport a nightmare.

NEWPORT CITY – According to state officials, work on replacing the Long Bridge will probably start in February, several months later than originally thought. Construction is expected to last nearly a year, during which time the state will also be paving US 5 through the city, including Main Street.Both the city and state say the bridge is safe. “If it weren’t safe, we would have it closed,” said Carolyn Carlson, project manager.The state will be finalizing the plans between now and January. Contractors will be able to bid on the project in January. The state originally wanted to start the bridge construction this fall. However, flood damage elsewhere in the state pushed the project back. The state also doesn’t have a signed permit from the Coast Guard, which is apparently needed because the bridge crosses a navigable waterway, but Carlson expects to have the permit late this week or early next week.The existing bridge has five spans but the new one will have three spans. It will have two peers and three drilled shafts that will be 5.5 feet in diameter and will go 130 feet into the ground.“These are very big,” said Carlson. “We are meeting with people in a couple of weeks to talk about the foundation.”The bridge will be slightly higher than the existing one. It will have new lighting and new sidewalks, and the railing will be similar to what is there now. The city’s water line will be replaced as well.“I think aesthetically it will look a lot nicer,” said Carlson.  The total cost of the project is about $6.7 million, however, that could change after contractor bids come in. The federal government is picking up 80 percent, the state is paying 10 percent and the city is paying 10 percent. The state will not put up a temporary bridge while the new one is constructed. “There is really no place to put one,” said Carlson.Carlson anticipates the bridge will be complete in late 2013, almost a year later. During construction, traffic will be detoured in other directions. Carlson doesn’t know what the emergency plan is in case the Causeway Bridge needs to be closed. The city is responsible for assigning the detour, Carlson said.For the most part, traffic will be detoured onto the Causeway. If that road needs to be closed for some reason, traffic will have to use the Coventry Station Road.“We’re not going to run a helicopter,” said City Manager John Ward.  The state will also be repaving U.S. Route 5 at the same time, which runs through the center of the city. Michael Fowler, pavement engineer for the state, said the project will be put out for bids early next spring with work taking place mid-year. Fowler said it would probably take about four months to complete.The cost for the paving project is around $4 million and the project is eligible for an 80-20 split from the federal government. The state will cover the remainder of the expense.“It’s going to be busy,” said Fowler, who was referring to both projects taking place at the same time. “I’m not extremely intimate with the bridge project itself, but I am familiar with Newport City.”Fowler said there will be some rerouting of traffic on other roads. He also said he is not familiar enough with Newport to know if there are additional routes. Fowler said the state is offering to do some nighttime paving. The council will be talking about traffic patterns and flows at the November 7th City Council meeting. It will be held at 7 p.m. in the council room.