Rhode Island… The Construction State

Published: June 16, 2022

Ahhh… The warm sunshine, the gentle breezes, the traffic? Yup, it is Summertime in Rhode Island and that can mean only one thing. No, not the sound of the crashing waves in Misquamicut. Not the screech of a seagull looking for the last crumb of your clam cake in Narragansett. Not even the smooth soft sounds of coming from the Newport Folk Festival. It is traffic. To be more specific, it is the traffic that is caused by the many, many large road construction projects that are now underway and some that have been in place now for almost ten years.

There are two seasons in the State of Rhode Island… Winter and Construction. Once the first lily pokes its head through that mound of snow, the RIDOT has their tractors rolling.

It wouldn’t be that frustrating if the RIDOT would FINISH a construction project before they start a new one. As of the date of this post, there are currently three large construction projects underway in Rhode Island:

  • Washington Bridge – Interstate 195 from Providence to East Providence.
  • Interstate 95 Viaduct in Providence
  • 6/10 connector reconstruction – Johnston to Providence

The Washington Bridge is a historic bridge that links the City of Providence to the City of East Providence and Interstate 195 is the main route to Cape Cod in Massachusetts from Connecticut and New York. This route was completely rebuilt back in the mid 2000’s. This bridge has been under construction in one form or another since the mid-1980’s.

The Interstate 95 Viaduct has now been under construction for almost eight years now. A temporary bridge has now been in place on the Southbound side for over six years and very little work has been done on this project in the last four years.

The 6/10 connector is construction that should have been done almost 40 years ago. US 6 connects the Town of Johnston to the City of Providence from Interstate 295 in Johnston to the Interstate 95 viaduct in Providence. This expressway has a major junction with RI 10 (Huntington Hwy) in the Onleyville section of Providence. The bridges at this junction have been supported by wooden beams since at least the 1980’s.

Video from 2015 on how the 6/10 connector in the Onleyville section of Providence will look upon completion.

Now with those major construction projects being nowhere near completion, you would think that the RIDOT would focus on them before starting any other major projects. But this is Rhode Island where the money flows freely and someone else will have to pay for the projects eventually.

The RIDOT broke ground recently on a major construction project on RI 146 in North Smithfield. RI 146 is the major expressway that links Providence, Rhode Island to Worcester, Massachusetts. This expressway, also known as Louisquiset Pike, carries more than 171,000 vehicles a day.

This project will reconstruct on dangerous intersection and one major junction that connects to the City of Woonsocket and is expected to be completed by 2026 at the projected cost of $196 million.

The reason that I am posting this is that, for myself, this traffic is becoming unbearable! I live in the Northwest section of Rhode Island and I commute 24 miles daily to the City of Providence. Before the RIDOT went construction crazy about ten years ago my commute tool about 35-45 minutes. Today, my commute is a minimum of an hour, if not more. As of today, below is a list of moderate to major construction sites that I have to drive through.

  • RI 102 Burrillville – Mohegan Bridge replacement (Projected finish 2023)
  • RI 7 Reconstruction – Complete reconstruction of RI 7 at the Burrillville/North Smithfield town line to Providence (starting Summer 2022)
  • Bridge construction – RI 116 over Interstate 295 in Smithfield, RI
  • Louisquisset Pike Bridge – The junction of RI 116 and RI 146 replacing bridge and rebuilding on and offramps. (started 2019 and was supposed to be completed in 2021. Still under construction.)
  • Bridge replacement on RI 146 over Mineral Spring Ave (RI 15) in North Providence (Starting June 17, 2022)
  • “The 146 Split” – Major construction at the junction of RI 146 and Interstate 95 in Providence.
  • Providence Viaduct Project – The construction of new bridges to replace the current failing bridges. This project have been underway a minimum of eight years if not more. The RIDOT site is claiming that construction started in 2020, but that is for the Northbound lanes only. The Northbound lanes projected completion is 2025 at a cost of $265 Million!!!
The “Providence Viaduct Project” has been under construction for over eight years at this point and although it has a projected completion date of 2025, it does not look like it will make that deadline.

The RIDOT is also replacing, well, pretty much every bridge on every Interstate and expressway in the State of Rhode Island. These construction zones are not too much of an inconvenience, more of a hassle that will slow traffic.

RIDOT insists that all of the roadwork in necessary and that Rhode Island’s bridges were in such a state of disrepair that it was only a matter of time before a catastrophic failure occurred. My question is how did the bridges get that way? Rhode Island has one of the highest gasoline taxes in the country and that money is supposed to be put back into the maintenance of the bridges and roads. Why were the roads and bridges not taken care of? And if they weren’t, where did the money go?

I hope with the over $1 billion price tag on all of the construction, the RIDOT is going to be closely monitored and that all maintenance and repairs are correctly done over the next 30-40 years so that the state is not in the same situation that it is today.