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Rhode Island DOT Breaks Ground for Birch Swamp Road/Schoolhouse Road Project in Warren

WARREN, RI — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) broke ground to start a pavement reclamation and reconstruction project for 2.6 miles along Birch Swamp Road and Schoolhouse Road in Warren. The project will be complete in December of 2022.

As part of this $6-million project, RIDOT will also replace the existing culverts with three 10-foot by 10-foot box culverts at the request of the Town of Warren. The Bristol County Water Authority (BCWA) is removing the dam from the Kickemuit River that created the Upper Kickemuit Reservoir also known as the Warren Reservoir.

The dam is located just north of the intersection of Schoolhouse Road and Serpentine Road. Flooding on Schoolhouse Road has been a problem for many years. Removing the dam, elevating Schoolhouse Road, and resizing the culverts will alleviate this problem and provide an important alternative evacuation route for the eastern part of Warren.

It will also reduce stagnant conditions and increase tidal flushing, which should greatly improve both the water quality and habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife. This, in turn, will restore the natural ecosystem function and enable salt marsh restoration for the Kickemuit River area.

"This project is an excellent example of the state working with the local community to put together a project that not only makes much-needed road improvements but makes beneficial changes to improve the environment," Governor McKee said.

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"We are able to kick off this project sooner than originally expected thanks to the leadership of the Town of Warren," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. "It shows the value of a great partnership in which all parties work together toward a common goal."

"The Town of Warren is thankful to the Department of Transportation for leading a multi-agency collaborative effort to create a project that recognizes the value of climate resilience, storm preparedness, and habitat restoration while being judicious stewards of the taxpayers' dollars," said Warren Town Manager Kate Michaud.

"We are very pleased to see RIDOT moving forward with this project," said BCWA Executive Director Stephen Coutu. "The improvements to Schoolhouse Road, coupled with the dam removals, will restore the Kickemuit River as a tidal estuary, which will provide for lasting and sustainable ecological benefits."

"Save The Bay commends the Rhode Island Department of Transportation for their commitment to increasing the ecological and community resiliency of the Kickemuit River through this road improvement project," said Save The Bay Director of Habitat Restoration Wenley Ferguson.

The paving rehabilitation part of the Birch Swamp Road and Schoolhouse Road project encompasses a 2.6 mile two-lane suburban/rural corridor. Of the 2.6 miles, about 2.4 miles will have the road structure reclaimed by putting in a processed asphalt stabilized base course and then a cover of hot-mix asphalt. This will repair the worn out and failed base problems under the existing asphalt. The remaining 0.2-mile segment at the Kickemuit Reservoir Causeway will include a full-depth reconstruction that will raise the elevation of Schoolhouse Road to accommodate the larger culverts and eliminate flooding.

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The Upper Kickemuit Dam will be breached after Schoolhouse Road is elevated and the culverts replaced. Removal will take place in segments to allow the sediment contained behind the dam to mobilize in stages. Sediment will collect in the basin downstream of the dam created by Schoolhouse Road where it will be removed mechanically.

At the Lower Kickemuit River Dam, sediment with elevated levels of copper will be removed. As the dam is removed, sediment will collect in a basin by the Child Street Bridge and will be mechanically removed.

Once the dams are gone, the exposed areas of the riverbed will be restored with plant growth native to the former estuary. The river basin will fill at high tide and reduce to a tidal creek at low tide, creating an ever-changing but much healthier environment.

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