PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Washington Bridge carries thousands of people into and out of Providence each day, but state leaders say the structure is in crucial need of rebuilding.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dan McKee, the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and members of the state’s congressional delegation broke ground on a $78 million project to address structural deficiencies on the westbound portion of the bridge, which carries I-195 over the Seekonk River between Providence and East Providence.

The project will also add a new lane to the bridge with an off-ramp to Waterfront Drive in Providence, officials said, as well as address chronic congestion issues.

According to RIDOT, the bridge was built in 1969 and it’s one of the busiest sections of interstate highway in the state, with roughly 96,000 vehicles crossing it every day.

In 2019, the congressional delegation secured a $25 million federal grant to help with the overhaul.

RIDOT said when the project is complete, the average morning commute from the state line to I-95 will be trimmed by about 40%, from an average of 16 minutes to 9 minutes.

McKee noted the upgrade will help with more than just travel.

“We know that infrastructure is one of the top things that we possibly can do to improve our economy,” he said. “Business friendliness depends on it, and our objective is to make our state a very small-business-friendly state.”

The project is set to be completed by summer 2026.