Because of the forecast of inclement weather this weekend, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is moving the start of traffic changes for the $78 million Washington Bridge project to Friday night, December 17. RIDOT expects the changes to create travel time delays for I-195 West traffic and for those entering I-195 West using the on-ramp from Taunton Avenue, Veterans Memorial Parkway and Warren Avenue.
All lanes on I-195 West will be narrowed and shifted to the right starting at the Broadway interchange in East Providence, over the bridge and ending near the South Main Street exit in Providence. RIDOT also will reduce the number of lanes from two to one at the Taunton Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway/Warren Avenue on-ramp, requiring drivers to merge into a single lane prior to entering the highway.
The lane shifts will provide safe work zones so RIDOT can begin rehabilitation of the structurally deficient westbound portion of the Washington Bridge, which carries I-195 over the Seekonk River between East Providence and Providence. The lane shifts will change over the course of the next four years of the project, but RIDOT will always maintain four through lanes for I-195 West traffic over the Washington Bridge. The lane reduction at the Taunton Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway/Warren Avenue on-ramp also will be in place for four years.
The traffic changes are expected to lengthen the commute for I-195 westbound travelers during the morning and afternoon rush hours, expanding the time when peak congestion begins and ends. RIDOT encourages drivers to plan extra time for travel, consider alternate routes, or shift travel to outside the busiest periods, which will be between 8-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.
RIDOT performed numerous traffic studies including an evaluation of pre- and post-pandemic traffic volumes and how they would be affected by the new traffic changes. They showed travel times from Exit 2 in Massachusetts to the I-95 interchange in Providence extending by approximately 10 to 20 minutes above today's travel times for both morning and evening commutes, with the stop-and-go queue starting about 1-1.5 miles east of Exit 1 in Massachusetts. Today, stop-and-go traffic begins between Exit 1 in Massachusetts and the state line.
RIDOT will be installing traffic sensors at various locations through the I-195 corridor in East Providence. That information will be used with publicly available travel data to display travel time information on portable electronic message boards at key decision points in East Providence. Drivers approaching these signs will see travel times to Providence via the Taunton Avenue/Veterans Memorial Parkway/Warren Avenue on-ramp or using different on-ramps to I-195 West, such as those at Pawtucket Avenue or Broadway. This way they will see real-time travel information so they can pick the route that will result in a shorter trip.
The travel time signs will be installed at the intersection of Veterans Memorial Parkway and Pawtucket Avenue for drivers heading north from Riverside, and at the Pawtucket Avenue and Taunton Avenue intersection for drivers heading south from Rumford or those heading west from Massachusetts.
RIDOT is making other changes to provide more capacity on I-195 West during construction. This includes restriping the highway to add a fourth lane from the Broadway interchange to just prior to the Washington Bridge and making changes at the Gano Street exit to provide the fourth through lane for I-195. The Gano Street off-ramp and on-ramp will remain open.
The bridge carries more than 96,000 vehicles per day and is one of the busiest sections of Interstate highway in Rhode Island.
Thanks to the efforts of Rhode Island's Congressional delegation in support of a $25 million federal BUILD grant, RIDOT was able expand the Washington Bridge North 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 which will address chronic congestion issues on the Interstate. The project will finish in summer 2026. Additional information can be found at www.ridot.net/WashingtonBridge.
All construction projects are subject to changes in schedule and scope depending on needs, circumstances, findings, and weather.
The Washington Bridge Project is made possible by RhodeWorks, RIDOT's ongoing commitment to repair structurally deficient bridges and bring Rhode Island's transportation infrastructure into a state of good repair, promote economic development, and create jobs. Learn more at www.ridot.net/RhodeWorks.