Padanaram causeway reopens after two year construction project

Jun 11, 2018

After two years of detours, the wait is over: the Padanaram causeway is officially open.

At noon on June 11, construction crews and police unblocked the roadway, re-establishing the vital link between Smith Neck and Padanaram Village. The causeway had been closed since August 2016 for an $8.2 million renovation project to improve its roadway, drainage, structural, and lighting systems.

Even though there was no ribbon cutting or big speeches, word spread fast about the imminent opening. Town officials, including current co-town administrators Greg Barnes and Deborah Melino-Wender, along with Padanaram residents, gathered to watch the first cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists pass through.

“It’s a great relief to us to finally be able to open the bridge,” Barnes said.

The project faced several setbacks throughout its history.

A stone wall replacement along Smith Neck Road had to be reworked when it was discovered there was no footing to stabilize it.

The causeway foundation had to be completely redone when shoddy foundation work was found. But construction continued throughout the winter, keeping it on schedule.

While the immediate headache of detours might be over, there is still some work to be done. The bridge itself will be the target of a $1 million improvement project over the next few months, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

“Most of the work will be under the bridge, so it should not affect passage, but there may be periods when traffic will be down to one lane,” Barnes said.

The work is in preparation of an eventual overhaul of the entire bridge, although there is no set timeline.

Dartmouth Fire District No. 1 crews were officially the first ones to drive across the new causeway as part of a ceremony which also included the department’s boat.

The restored access will mean faster response times to locations over the bridge.

"For two years we haven’t been able to cross that bridge, and it’s just been very difficult to get across to anything on that side, so to be able to cross was wonderful," said Chief Brad Ellis.

Paul Bergman claimed the title as the first civilian to drive across, at least on the Padanaram side.

The retired town assessing administrator was in the village handling building paperwork, but when he realized the causeway was not open yet, he parked and waited instead of going around. He was not alone, as cars filled Bridge Street in the minutes leading up to the opening. Ron Andrade first drove by at 6 a.m. while it was still closed, but returned to be among the first to cross.

“I live on Rock O’ Dundee Road, and [the closure] messed up my life for the past two years,” Andrade said. “We took bets on who would be the first one over.”

Kevin Silva was among the first cyclists to ride across the bridge.

His 21-mile route had to follow the detours, which included several dangerous left-hand turns, but he can now return to his safer route across the causeway.

“I’ve been waiting for this to happen for two years,” he added.