The third and final phase of the single largest public work’s project in Rhode Island’s history getting underway. This phase involves a $450 million design-build contract for a tunnel slated for completion by 2027. As the frequency and intensity of storms continues to rise, leaders emphasize the importance of the big dig for the health and safety of people and the environment.
Boring Toward a Clean Bay
When complete, a 2.2 mile tunnel will run beneath Pawtucket and Central Falls. With a 30 foot diameter, the tunnel’s depth will range from 115 feet to 155 feet below grade and have the capacity to store over 58 million gallons of overflow. Among the expected results are shrinking overflow volume by 98% and treat storm water before it flows into Narragansett Bay. ENR reports that success is critical—now and for future generations:
Hoping to launch the tunnel boring machine (TBM) in early summer 2022, CB3A is constructing the launch shaft and tunnel pump station shaft simultaneously, says Pete Williamson, deputy project manager for CB3A.
One major challenge of the complex project in a dense urban environment “is to construct the multiple drop shafts, located throughout the tunnel’s 2.2-mile alignment,” Williamson says. “Each shaft is constructed in varying ground conditions and rigorous vetting of the design and constructibility is needed, all while putting great weight on progressing construction activities in close proximity of local residents and stakeholders.” Vincent J. Mesoleslla, chairman of owner/operator Narragansett Bay Commission, notes the project as “critical” for “the next generation of Rhode Islanders… to only ever know a clean bay and vibrant urban rivers.”
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Signs of Progress
In Rhode Island, the Narragansett Bay Commission is seeing results from earlier phases of the effort. The Commission’s public affairs manager, Jamie Sammons has said:
The region already shows signs of progress from earlier phase work.
“As a result of the first two phases of the program… we’ve seen about 85 extra shell fishing days a year and are anticipating similar benefits from this tunnel….We’ve seen shell fishing grounds in the upper Providence River that have been closed for 75 years have now been opened, in addition to more swimming beaches open upstream from the river; we are anticipating similar benefits from the second tunnel.”
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