Federal, state and local political figures, dignitaries and residents joined officials from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) on Monday morning to rededicate the Laurel Avenue Bridge as the Major-General Nathanael Greene Memorial Bridge.
Among those in attendance were Governor Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, state Senators Glen Shibley and Nick Kettle, Representative Lisa Tomasso, Town Manager Tom Hoover, Director of Parks & Recreation Guy Lefebvre, Police Chief Bryan Volpe, Anthony Fire Chief Paul Labbadia, Town Council President Gary Cote and newly elected council members Greg Laboissonniere and Karen Carlson.
RIDOT Director Michael Lewis also introduced guests Thomas Casey Greene, a descendant of the war hero and Gold Crew Commanding Officer (1974-76) of the USS Nathanael Greene Captain Kerry Gentry.
Highlights of the ceremony included the presence of members of the Rhode Island Historic Militia, Artillery Company of Newport, and other historians and reenactors. They marched in formation across the bridge to open the event, formed a color guard to present the Nation, State and Company colors and concluded with a volley of musket fire.
“Major-General Greene was not only one of the most legendary leaders in Rhode Island history, but one of the most influential figures in the Revolutionary War,” said Governor Chafee. “His contributions to the development and early history of our country cannot be understated. A simple act such as naming this bridge after Greene helps make younger generations aware of his and Rhode Island’s notable role in the formation of the United States.”
A class of 25 eighth-grade students from Nathanael Greene Middle School in Providence attended the event to learn more about the Revolutionary War hero for whom their school is named. The students and those in attendance then visited the nearby Greene Homestead, built in 1770, for a reception.
RIDOT reopened the bridge on Nov. 8, approximately three weeks ahead of schedule. It had been closed since it was damaged beyond repair by historic flooding in March 2010.
The $2.9 million reconstruction project awarded to Cardi/CME in Fall 2011 also involved restoration of the riverbed and walls under the bridge that were eroded by the force of flood waters. Large sandbags were used to divert the river’s flow, allowing for the construction of a concrete base (splash pad) at the base of the falls which were then connected to new concrete walls on both sides of the river. To preserve the historic nature of the dam and river walls, RIDOT saved the original granite blocks that were washed out, cut them into 10-inch-thick pieces and attached them to the new concrete to give the appearance of a laid-granite wall.
The 84-foot bridge itself was built on a series of drilled piles placed behind the concrete walls and set 60 feet deep, well below the riverbed. The design sets the bridge apart structurally from the river walls, which will ensure its stability and longevity even if extreme flooding occurs again on the Pawtuxet River.
“The Town is grateful for the bridge restoration and especially appreciates the attention of detail on the Greene bridge, from the historical markers on either end telling more about the Major-General to the stone work under the bridge that makes it blend in seamlessly with this historic mill village," said Council President Cote.