Starting on Friday night, September 16, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will begin shifting traffic in phases onto the new I-95 Northbound Providence Viaduct. The first lane will shift onto the bridge on September 16, the remaining lanes approximately two weeks later, and traffic from the Atwells Avenue on-ramp in early October.
For the first phase, RIDOT will shift the high-speed lane onto the new bridge using a lane split. The split will start right after the Downtown Providence exit (Exit 22). Drivers should not slow down or suddenly change lanes at the split, as this unsafe behavior will cause traffic delays and could lead to a crash. Both sides of the split continue onto I-95. Drivers should use the far right lane for the State Offices/Route 146 exit (Exit 23), as they do today.
Any vehicles using the high-speed lane on the new bridge will not have access to the State Offices/Route 146 exit. Those who wanted to take this exit should take the next exit to Branch Avenue. Drivers heading to the State Offices area can turn right at the end of the ramp onto Branch Avenue southbound and turn right onto North Main Street toward Smith Street. Drivers wishing to take Route 146 can turn left at the end of the Branch Avenue off-ramp and follow Branch Avenue approximately 1 mile to the Route 146 interchange.
About two weeks after the first shift, on or about September 30, RIDOT will shift the other two I-95 lanes onto the new bridge. Finally, in early October RIDOT will finish construction of a temporary ramp to link the Atwells Avenue on-ramp to the new bridge.
RIDOT worked hard to schedule this traffic change at this time of the year, removing traffic from the deficient old Viaduct prior to the winter plowing season. This will avoid the frequent maintenance associated with the old bridge during winter storms and Rhode Island’s freeze-thaw cycles during the winter months which often led to potholes.
While traffic will have a new, safer structure to drive on, RIDOT has yet to construct pieces of the project that will address today’s chronic congestion issues associated with the tight weaves and merges of traffic from vehicles entering the highway from the Route 6/10 Connector. Once all traffic has been moved onto the new bridge, RIDOT will demolish the old bridge and build a new collector distributor road and new ramps to separate merging traffic from I-95 through traffic. These improvements will maximize traffic efficiency and reduce vehicle emissions, utilizing the same footprint as the original highway bridges. They will begin coming online for drivers in early 2024. The entire project finishes in fall 2025.
In addition to replacing the nearly 1,300-foot long I-95 North Viaduct, the $265 million project will rebuild 10 additional bridges, many of which are of critical safety concern. It also will correct inefficiencies, congestion and safety issues along this part of I-95. The Viaduct carries more than 220,000 vehicles per day over numerous local roads and highway ramps, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and the Woonasquatucket River. It is the busiest section of I-95 in Rhode Island and one of the most heavily trafficked highway bridges on the East Coast.
All construction projects are subject to changes in schedule and scope depending on needs, circumstances, findings, and weather.
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