Governor Dan McKee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti, Jr. Tuesday joined with state and local leaders to break ground on the $78 million Washington Bridge North project. It will address the structural deficiencies of the westbound portion of the Washington Bridge, which carries I-195 over the Seekonk River between East Providence and Providence. The project also includes a new off-ramp to support economic development opportunities and other improvements to address chronic congestion issues on the Interstate.
Thanks to the efforts of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation in support of a federal BUILD grant, RIDOT was able to secure $25 million for this project. The additional funding allows the Department to expand the bridge rehabilitation project to include a new exit to Waterfront Drive in East Providence – providing access to dozens of acres of developable land. The project also includes an additional through lane on the bridge to better accommodate Interstate traffic and the high volume of traffic entering the highway from the Veterans Memorial Parkway, Warren Avenue and Taunton Avenue ramps.
“Once again, our Congressional delegation has stepped up and provided Rhode Island with additional funding so we can make necessary improvements to our infrastructure, and at the same time address traffic problems that have plagued this highway for years and open the door for economic development and the many jobs that come with it,” Governor McKee said.
“The Washington Bridge has to be rehabilitated to keep it safe,” Director Alviti said. “And thanks to our Congressional delegation we can make additional, once-in-a-lifetime improvements at the same time that will clear up much of the daily traffic congestion along I-195 West and provide new connections for commuters and commerce.”
“I was pleased to secure funding for the BUILD grant program, which is being tapped to upgrade the Washington Bridge. The federal grant for this project was the difference between just repairing the bridge for today and fixing it for the decades to come. This project will make commutes faster and safer and combine nicely with the Henderson Bridge project to provide greater opportunities for economic development,” said Senator Reed, a Senior Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD).
“The delegation helped deliver $25 million to support major upgrades to the Washington Bridge,” said Senator Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This project will alleviate a rush hour bottleneck for East Bay commuters and make this stretch of 195 significantly safer, all while supporting economic development along East Providence’s waterfront.”
“I was excited to join the groundbreaking for the Washington Bridge North project,” said Congressman Cicilline. “The federal grant supporting this work will help enhance safety and promote efficient travel for Rhode Islanders and will create new economic development opportunities in East Providence. These are exactly the type of investments we need to be making, and I look forward to bringing home more funding for our state’s infrastructure.”
The bridge carries more than 96,000 vehicles per day and is one of the busiest sections of Interstate highway in Rhode Island. It is the source of chronic congestion with backups often extending as far back as the Massachusetts state line, particularly during the morning rush hour. When the project is done, the average morning commute from the state line to I-95 will be trimmed by 40 percent, from 16 minutes to 9.5 minutes.
The Waterfront Drive exit will work in tandem with improvements on the Henderson Bridge project. That project includes a new road network that will directly tie Waterfront Drive to the Henderson Expressway and Henderson Bridge. Together the two projects will provide safer and more convenient connections to portions of the East Side of Providence, Rumford and other parts of East Providence.
Other improvements being made as part of the Washington Bridge project include:
• Partial widening to provide five continuous lanes of I-195 westbound traffic over the bridge. • A new bridge structure in East Providence to carry traffic from the Taunton Avenue/Warren Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway on-ramps over the new off-ramp to Waterfront Drive. • A new bridge structure to carry traffic from Gano Street in Providence onto I-195 westbound. • Restriping of I-195 westbound from the Broadway overpass to the new Waterfront Drive off-ramp to allow four lanes of through traffic on the mainline, eliminating the current lane drop at Broadway. • Adding a through lane on the western end of the Washington Bridge to reduce the weaving movements between the Taunton Avenue/Warren Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway on-ramps and the Gano Street off-ramp.
The Washington Bridge North project is a design-build project awarded to a joint venture of Barletta Heavy Division and Aetna Bridge Company along with VHB, the lead design firm. Using a design-build approach means that design and initial construction activities take place at the same time.
Motorists on I-195 westbound can expect lane shifts during construction as RIDOT rehabilitates the bridge in phases so it can always keep four lanes of travel open during peak travel times. Those using the Taunton Avenue/Warren Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway on-ramps can expect delays from lane reductions leading onto the bridge. These will be put into place toward the end of the year.
The project will finish in summer 2026. During a two-month period close to the end of the project, RIDOT will need to temporarily close the Gano Street off-ramp to complete the rehabilitation of that structure. When the closure occurs, the new Waterfront Drive off-ramp will be open and available for use as an alternate route.
All construction projects are subject to changes in schedule and scope depending on needs, circumstances, findings, and weather.
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