RIDOT expects to open Interstate 195 ramp at Gano Street

Eventually eyes new ramp off highway on Waterfront Drive in city

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/16/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — Prodded for comment after a recent outcry from area residents and business owners, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has clarified some details of its future plans …

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RIDOT expects to open Interstate 195 ramp at Gano Street

Eventually eyes new ramp off highway on Waterfront Drive in city

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Prodded for comment after a recent outcry from area residents and business owners, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has clarified some details of its future plans while indicating the off-ramp at Gano Street on Interstate 195 will remain open until proposed construction of a new point of egress is built here in East Providence down the line.

The Gano Street exit in Providence, which affords motorists access to that city’s East Side off 195-West, has been closed during the most recent renovations to the Washington Bridge connecting the interstate between the two municipalities. RIDOT officials said the exit was expected to be reopened some time this week. RIDOT also now says it will stay in service until future redevelopment of the adjoining highway system is completed.

RIDOT said plans calling for the expansion of Washington Bridge remain in the works, the $70 million project would require a $25 million allocation from the federal BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) Grant Program. The plan is scheduled to include an additional lane of travel up to five from the current four. It also intends to replace the Gano Street ramp with a new one in East Providence allowing for direct entry onto Waterfront Drive, something long sought after by E.P. elected representatives and administrators.

The Washington Bridge plan coincides with a similar effort announced previously by RIDOT to rebuild the Henderson Bridge, which also connects E.P. with its neighbor more pointedly in the heart of the East Side neighborhood. The next phase of the Washington Bridge development, however, has no set start date and a Request for Proposal (RFP) bid process hasn’t begun as of yet. On the contrary, site work has already started on the $88.5 million Henderson Bridge refurbishment.

The chief executives in each city — East Providence’s Bob DaSilva and Providence’s Jorge Elorza — have each backed the projects, writing to RIDOT in separate correspondences.

“Mayor DaSilva supports the idea to expand Washington Bridge to five lanes, which will eliminate the weaving pattern that takes place during peak hours and leads to daily backups in traffic. This new design will make things safer, faster and more efficient for commuters. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has been meeting with business owners and we support RIDOT’s focus on traffic studies and its continued dialogue with local businesses and the public,” said Patricia Resende, Director of Project Management & Communications for Mayor DaSilva.

The proposal has also been affirmed by the East Providence City Council, the East Providence Waterfront Commission, the East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce along with the Chevron Corporation, owners of a large swathe of property along nearby Veterans Memorial Parkway, and the reformulated Rhode Island Waterfront Enterprises, which recently purchased land near Bold Point Park where for the last three years it's operated a seasonal concert series.

The Waterfront Drive component would be a considerable coup for local officials, who for several years have been privately and publicly lobbying state and federal officials for funding of the ramp and for its inclusion in any reconfigurations to 195.

“The state has demonstrated a strong commitment to provide resources to bolster the city’s redevelopment efforts along the waterfront,” said Waterfront Commission chairman Bill Fazioli, who now doubles as the city’s director of economic development/planning. “The initial designs of the Henderson Bridge will have direct access to Waterfront Drive and another connection off 195 would be a great boost for continued development.”

Mr. Fazioli said he, city officials and those from the state “are cautiously optimistic” about the chances of seeing the new on ramp built. If RIDOT receives the aforementioned federal BUILD grant, he said the span could begin to be constructed sometime in either 2022 or 2023.

Drivers, residents and proprietors in each city recently expressed reservations about the pending changes in access points. Via a formal letter to RIDOT and an on-line position, they took the position shuttering the Gano Street exit will create greater traffic congestion at the Henderson Bridge from both ramps.

The current effort has had multiple effects on East Providence motorists. Ingress to the East Side of Providence has been precluded with the Gano Street closure. The demolition and subsequent reconstruction of the Taunton Avenue I-195 on ramp also has had its issues. And the bottlenecking of westbound traffic on 195 at peak travel times remains an aggravation, but has been especially bothersome throughout the existing phase of the project.

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