Causeway construction unveils more structural issues

Jun 27, 2017

The $9.2 million reconstruction of the Padanaram causeway and the Smith Neck Road intersection has hit another snag: The foundation of the causeway will need to be completely redone.

While touring the construction zone on June 26, Select Board members were made aware of a second case of a shoddy foundation work done prior to the recent project.

"The only thing holding the whole thing together was mud and slime," said Select Board Chair Frank Gracie. "It was really kind of startling to see what was there."

The state Department of Transportation-led project began in July. The project seeks to make roadway, drainage, structural, and lighting improvements along Gulf Road from the eastern edge of Apponagansett Park to the Padanaram Bridge, and southerly 500 feet onto Smith Neck Road.

The first hiccup was discovered last fall while putting in a seawall along Smith Neck Road. Contractors discovered that there was no footing to stabilize the stone wall replacement, so both had to be rebuilt.

Now, contractors are working to fix the lack of support under the causeway itself.

"The whole weight of the causeway was just built on rocks. There was no metal. It was rocks. It was porous. It was being eroded away," said Gracie. He described the foundation as "small rocks on top of big rocks."

Gracie said the foundation issue won't delay the project, but will prevent any ahead-of-schedule timeline. He added that because the two issues were detected early, funding has already gone toward more supplies. The original project cost was $8.2 million, and it is contracted to he Smithfield-based John Rocchio Corp..

MassDOT took over the project, which is funded with federal and state monies, after the town finished its engineering and permitting.

While the Smith Neck-Gulf Road intersection reopened this month, traffic is still rerouted around the causeway via Gulf Road, Bakerville Road, Russells Mills Road, and Elm Street.

"It's going to be a strong, beautiful structure when it's finished," Gracie noted. He added that the good weather and favorable conditions have kept the project on schedule.

The Select Board last toured the site in October.