EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Students in East Providence will likely be tardy for the first day of classes. Superintendent Kathryn Crowley says the significant traffic on I-195 in her city will slow down buses trying to pick up children when the school year starts Tuesday.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) started work this week on the Washington Bridge, which carries the highway between Providence and East Providence. The work forced the agency to shut down the westbound Gano Street exit and the right two lanes for the next 18 months.
Drivers have seen significant delays since the work began.
“I cannot afford to have students late every single day for 18 months,” Crowley said. “It just can’t happen.”
In a news conference Thursday, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti announced they are working on new strategies to alleviate some of the backups but said there will be traffic no matter what. He said starting next week, crews will be out there working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Given the strategic location of this bridge, there is little that can be done,” Alviti said. “It’s a dilemma for us.”
Alviti said they have been sending crews into traffic every hour during the morning rush to see how long the traffic is delaying them. He says along I-195 West from the Massachusetts state line, it’s taking drivers an extra 27 minutes at the most. For drivers traveling from Route 114, it took RIDOT an extra 28 minutes. The longest travel delay in the morning came from Route 44. Some drivers experienced a 50-minute delay, according to RIDOT.
Alviti said he is just as frustrated as drivers with the traffic delays but added that the work needs to be done. He pointed to photos showing rust, exposed concrete rods and erosion.
“I think these pictures speak for themselves,” Alviti said, pointing to images of rust, erosion, and exposed concrete rods. “This bridge needed to be done this year.”
As classes begin next week in East Providence, RIDOT admits traffic will likely get worse. They hope changes they make in the coming days and weeks will offset that.
Crowley says they have been working with East Providence police, the busing company, and state officials in an effort to find the best solution to get students to school on time.
“I’m hoping the state can offer some suggestion if this is going to keep up this way,” Crowley said.