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Project Profile: Washington Bridge North Project

Washington Bridge Project Addresses Several Structural Deficiencies

By Camille Manaloto

With infrastructure on the minds of millions, improving our citys’ foundation became much more probable.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), Washington Bridge North Project is a $78 million project that will address the structural deficiencies of the westbound portion of the Washington Bridge. This bridge carries the I-195 over the Seekonk River between East Providence and Providence. 

This project is classified as structurally deficient, and if not repaired RIDOT would have to impose weight limits which would severely limit the east-west flow of commerce across the metropolitan area of Providence and in and out of southeastern Massachusetts. Additionally, the lengthy detours around the bridge would adversely impact communities from increased truck traffic on their local streets.

Project information

This project covers a wide variety of structural improvements. 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.

Re-stripping 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.

Thanks to the efforts of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation in support of a $25 million federal BUILD grant, RIDOT was able to expand the project to include a new highway exit to Waterfront Drive. This road along the East Providence riverfront provides access to dozens of acres of developable land, but in its current configuration is difficult to access and has been identified as a hindrance to development. 

Just to the north of the Washington Bridge, RIDOT is replacing another large bridge crossing the Seekonk River. The $84.4 million Henderson Bridge project includes roadway improvements so it too connects directly to Waterfront Drive. Together, the two projects will provide safer and more convenient connections between the Interstate and the East Side of Providence as well as other parts of East Providence.

RIDOT also will construct an additional through lane on the bridge to better accommodate Interstate traffic while a high volume of traffic enters the highway from the very busy Taunton Avenue/Warren Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway on-ramps, which are adjacent to the bridge. This portion of the Washington 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. Once the project is completed, the average morning commute from the state line to I-95 will be trimmed by 40 percent, from 16 minutes to 9.5 minutes. 

This translates to significant fuel savings that otherwise would be consumed in stop and go traffic. Additionally, the reduced congestion has positive effects on air quality.

RIDOT carefully planned the construction phasing for this project to avoid interrupting Interstate traffic and causing additional delays on an already congested highway corridor. During peak travel times, the four existing through lanes will remain open. The Department believes this approach will provide a sufficient work zone for construction to proceed while managing traffic flow.

RIDOT does expect travel delays for those entering the highway from the Taunton Avenue/Warren Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway on-ramps and had coordinated closely with the City of East Providence in advance of traffic changes expected in late 2021. RIDOT also will do extensive public outreach about the changes and educate the public about alternative routes to reduce their travel time delay. 

The host communities of Providence and East Providence eagerly await the congestion and safety improvements as part of this project. In East Providence, congestion on local streets leading to highway on-ramps is a frequent occurrence. Officials in this community also are welcoming the new highway exit, an area identified as a priority district for economic development. 

With nearly 100,000 vehicles per day crossing the bridge, the benefits of the project are being welcomed by many adjoining communities in the East Bay portion of Rhode Island as well as neighboring cities and towns in Massachusetts.

RIDOT will use a precast arch bridge on both the Providence side to speed construction. This approach also allows RIDOT to make roadway improvements to span an existing roadway as opposed to undertaking costly and time-consuming underground utility relocations as part of road construction.

RIDOT successfully competed for a $25 million federal BUILD grant, with the assistance of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation. RIDOT in the past five years has received $400 million in grants and additional funding.

Camille Manaloto is the Assistant Editor at American Infrastructure Magazine. She can be reached at camille@builder.media.

Additional project information is available at www.ridot.net/WashingtonBridge

Photo Credit(s): RIDOT

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