Congressional Delegation, State Officials Celebrate $60.3 Million Federal Grant to Upgrade Northbound Providence Viaduct

Sep 13, 2019 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Transportation

PROVIDENCE, RI – Gathered beneath the aging structure of the Northbound Providence Viaduct, Rhode Island’s federal delegation and state officials today celebrated a $60.3 million federal “Infrastructure for Rebuilding America” grant, or INFRA grant, that will provide funding to replace and upgrade the eleven bridges that comprise one of the busiest segments of I-95 in northeast.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, designed the INFRA Program to meet Rhode Island’s need for funding to tackle large-scale infrastructure investments.

Whitehouse, along with U.S. Senator Jack Reed and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, supported the state’s application for the INFRA grant.  In a March 1, 2019 letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the four members of the delegation noted this project “will improve safety and reduce congestion.  Moreover, it will ensure that the new Viaduct will be durable and can meet traffic demands for decades into the future.  However, RIDOT will not be able to undertake this forward-thinking vision without an INFRA grant.”

Reed, the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee helped make nearly $1 billion in INFRA funding available in FY 2019.

“This $60.3 million INFRA award has long been an aspiration for RIDOT and the state, and it’s arriving just in time to fix the North Bound I-95 Providence Viaduct,” said Senator Reed.  “It will address both glaring infrastructure deficiencies and a congestion chokepoint on the I-95 corridor.  More than that, it will provide a long-term solution that will carry drivers into the next century.”

“I developed the INFRA Program to green-light once-in-a-generation infrastructure projects like the reconstruction of the Northbound Providence Viaduct,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The Providence Viaduct – designed in the 1960s and the heart of our state’s highway system – was simply not designed to carry the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that cross it every day.  This investment will transform the Northbound Viaduct into modern throughway, and create good construction jobs in the process.”

“The Providence Viaduct is a critical transportation artery for our state, and this federal grant will ensure it can safely accommodate the thousands of Rhode Islanders who depend on it,” said Congressman Langevin.  “I am thrilled my delegation colleagues and I were able to secure this funding, and I thank Senator Whitehouse for designing the INFRA Program so large-scale Rhode Island infrastructure projects are strong candidates for funding.”  

“This is exactly how government is supposed to work, by getting things done for the people it serves,” said Congressman Cicilline. “I’m proud that the federal funding we secured will allow this project to start as soon as possible. This will make a real difference in people’s lives and create an easier daily commute for many Rhode Islanders.”

The 1,300-foot-long Northbound Providence Viaduct, which was built in 1964, runs alongside the Providence Place Mall and carries about 220,000 vehicles per day above the Northeast Corridor, the Woonasquatucket River, and local roadways.  Replacement of the southbound bridge was completed in 2017, but the northbound side remains structurally deficient and in need of improved traffic control and flow.  Financing for the project will come from a number of other federal and state sources, including a federally approved Grant Anticipated Revenue Vehicle.

Construction on the project is expected to begin late next year.  The new Northbound Viaduct will have an anticipated service life of 100 years.  The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) plans to upgrade the Viaduct by adding lanes and better separating entering and exiting vehicles from other traffic to relieve congestion on I-95 North between the 6/10 Connector and Downtown on-ramp at Exit 22 to the off-ramp for Route 146 and State Offices at Exit 23.  The redesign includes the reconfiguration of ramps to improve motorist safety, reduce traffic, and provide new, more efficient connections between the arteries of I-95, the 6/10 Connector, and Route 146.

“The $60.3 million INFRA grant is a game changer for this project,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said.  “It will allow us to rebuild this interchange the right way – fixing the bridge structurally while correcting the inefficiencies, congestion and safety concerns that exist today. We have set an aggressive schedule for completing the project and will put this money to work as quickly as possible.”

The replacement of the Northbound Viaduct is urgently needed, as engineering studies show numerous deficiencies in the structural elements supporting existing span.  The state has spent millions of dollars to make emergency fixes to the structure in recent years. 

“The Northbound Providence Viaduct serves as one of the most highly traveled segments of I-95 in the northeast,” said Michael Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Constructions Trade Council.  “In order to ensure the durability of our roads and improve highway safety, reconstruction is a top priority for us here in Rhode Island.  These enhancements cannot be made possible without the INFRA grant, which will put many of our dedicated tradesmen and women back to work in order to meet our state’s traffic needs, while vastly improving a vital piece of our state’s infrastructure for decades to come.”

First authorized in 2015 as the FASTLANE grant program, the INFRA discretionary grant program provides funding for large-scale urban highway and multimodal projects that might otherwise stall without additional federal support.  The program also provides funding for smaller-scale rural projects.  Since 2016, over $3 billion in INFRA and FASTLANE grants have been awarded, supplementing billions more in federal, state, local, and private investments.