NEWPORT — The southernmost section of the Cliff Walk between Bailey’s Beach and Ledge Road in Newport is expected to reopen to the public soon, according to Cliff Walk Commission Chairman Robert B. Power.
The southern half of the Cliff Walk between Ruggles Avenue to the north and Bailey’s Beach to the south has been closed since sections of it were destroyed by superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012.
“The work there is almost completed,” Power said of the short section nearest the beach. “There is no reason why we can’t open it to the public.”
After some delays during the past year, the John Rocchio Corp. of Smithfield began the Cliff Walk repairs last month and plans to continue to work this year for as long as the weather holds, Power said.
“We’ve been really lucky with the weather,” he said. “When it’s been too cold to pour concrete, the crews have been doing the stone work, such as placing armor stones.”
Power said he expects the entire Cliff Walk to be reopened to the public by May, “or early June at the latest,” he said.
That is a strict deadline, he said, because the contractor’s prime access point to the Cliff Walk is through the grounds of Rough Point, the estate of the late Doris Duke. The Newport Restoration Foundation, which owns the estate, operates the mansion as a museum and its grounds must be restored by the time the summer tourism season begins in June.
The foundation permitted the state Department of Transportation and its contractor access to the Cliff Walk with that understanding, Power said.
The 3.5-mile scenic ocean walkway is the state’s most popular tourist attraction, but much of the walkway has been closed to tourists, hikers and joggers for more than a year.
In late September, the DOT awarded a $3.23 million contract to the Rocchio Corp. to compete the repairs under DOT’s oversight.
DOT engineer Joseph Godino made a presentation to the city’s Cliff Walk Commission last month, accompanied by photographs showing what sections of the walk looked like before the work began, and what the sections where work has been completed look like now.
“We were very pleased,” Power said.
The photos showed a new asphalt walkway near Bailey’s Beach, as well as new concrete walks and stone dust walks in other sections. Masonry stairs have been rebuilt, new concrete caps placed on sea walls and masonry walls pointed and grouted. New rip-rap and armor stone have been placed between Cliff Walk sections and the sea. Existing granite curbing is being reset, and the fencing and railings along the walk that were destroyed are being replaced, according to Godino’s presentation. After the onset of harsh weather halts the work for the winter, the work will begin again as soon as possible in March, Power said.
Rocchio Corp. was the low bidder by a wide margin among the five bids received by DOT. The next lowest bid was $5.05 million, submitted by the HK&S Construction Corp. of Newport, or $1.82 million more than Rocchio’s.
DOT engineers analyzed the bid carefully to make sure it was qualified, according to Cliff Walk Commission members.
The Rocchio Corp. has done work in Newport before. In December 2008, the City Council awarded the company an $874,065 contract to complete Phase II of the Washington Square renovation project. Rocchio was the low bidder of six firms that submitted bids for that project.
Cardi Corp. of Warwick, which undertook a $4.3 million project to repair and restore the Cliff Walk in 2005-06, bid $5.62 million to complete the repairs that are now taking place.
Earlier this year, DOT initially sought bids for the repairs and Cardi Corp. had the low bid at $6.8 million for a project that was more expansive. The project specifications at that time called for repairs to be made at 27 locations between The Breakers at Ruggles Avenue and Bailey’s Beach, with construction starting in June and “substantially completed” by Nov. 1.
But that contract was not awarded because of strong opposition to DOT’s initial plan for the Cliff Walk restoration. It included the construction of four temporary armor stone jetties to serve as bases for cranes, which would have placed additional armor stone along the base of the cliff, some of it extending into the marine habitat along the shore. The jetties would have extended into the surf break near Ruggles Avenue, which led to thousands of surfers signing petitions in April opposing the whole plan.
The DOT pulled back the plan and revised it in May.
The engineers plan to have Roccio thicken the base of concrete walls along the Cliff Walk, remove damaged concrete sidewalks and fill the void under the sidewalks with a flowable fill containing cement, water, aggregate and fly ash. New concrete sidewalks are being installed on top once the voids are filled.
Where the base of concrete and stone walls have deteriorated because of wave action, some new armor stone is being installed, work that can be seen in the recent photos shown by Godino. However, no armor stone will be placed in the water or below the high water mark, according to the revised plans.