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Feds extend deadline for RIDOT to turn over Washington Bridge records

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Feds extend deadline for RIDOT to turn over Washington Bridge records

Feb 28, 2024 | 2:15 pm ET
By Christopher Shea
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Feds extend deadline for RIDOT to turn over Washington Bridge records
Description
Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee speaks to the media during a press event on the Gano Street ramp at I-195 in Providence Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. To his right in tan overcoat is the Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt who visited the state that day for a tour of the Washington Bridge, shown in background on the right. From left to right in background are U.S. Rep. Gabe Amo; U.S. Sen. Jack Reed; East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva; U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Providence Mayor Brett Smiley; Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. (Will Steinfeld/Rhode Island Current)

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has an extra three weeks to deliver documents and records related to the partial Washington Bridge closure to the federal government.

RIDOT initially had until Monday, Feb. 26, to turn over records to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials looking into allegations that “false claims” were submitted to the federal government for the construction, inspection, and/or repair of the Washington Bridge. Investigators are seeking documents and records dating back to 2015, according to the federal inquiry. That is the same year Peter Alviti Jr. was appointed as head of RIDOT.

State will open extra travel lanes on the Washington Bridge. Like two months from now.

The department now has until March 18 to comply, RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin said Wednesday morning. The extension came at RIDOT’s request.

It is unclear why the extension was needed, when RIDOT asked and how many documents have already been submitted to the DOJ.

“I’m not in that loop,” St. Martin said.

Gov. Dan McKee’s spokesperson Olivia DaRocha referred all questions on the extension back to RIDOT. Rhode Island Current has submitted a public records request for correspondence and memos between RIDOT and DOJ specifically mentioning the Feb. 26 deadline. 

The extension comes as RIDOT awaits an official recommendation into whether the Washington Bridge needs to be repaired or replaced. State leaders have repeatedly said they expect to get final reports back from engineers by late February or early March.

“Nothing’s changed with that timeline,” St. Martin said Wednesday.

A 45-page draft report submitted to RIDOT on Feb. 21 and leaked to WPRI-12 on Feb. 22 urges RIDOT to consider “the demolition and replacement of the superstructure, and potentially a full bridge replacement.” The report was published by VN Engineers, one of the seven firms contracted by RIDOT to work on the Washington Bridge repairs.

Several engineering firms will be providing data and analyses regarding the condition of the bridge, St. Martin said. That information will be incorporated into a final report that will include recommendations for addressing the bridge.  

RIDOT is also expecting separate forensics reports from Boston-based Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates. That analysis will be reviewed by Colorado-based McNary Bergeron and Johannesen — the firm hired by the Department of Administration to provide oversight of the process.