PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Just three days after the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) closed two lanes on I-195 West as they make repairs to the Washington Bridge, traffic is still backed up for miles, and Wednesday morning’s wet weather only added to the problem.
Work started Monday on the northern two lanes of the Washington Bridge, which carries drivers over I-195 West from East Providence to Providence. Because drivers won’t be able to drive over the parts of the bridge being reconstructed, RIDOT closed Exit 3 to Gano Street and the Taunton Avenue on-ramp.
A temporary on-ramp from Taunton Avenue was added to the left of the original ramp. Drivers who normally take Exit 3 are now using Exit 2 and taking a detour back to Gano Street. The construction is expected to last until the end of 2019.
Seekonk resident Keith Clark said his normal commute to his job in Warwick takes approximately 45 minutes with normal delays on I-195 West. But since the construction began, his commute has been elongated to at least two hours.
“It is a complete grid lock in the morning and the evening on Taunton Avenue,” Clark said.
Clark said besides the backups on the highway, the closure of Exit 3 and changes to the Taunton Avenue on-ramp are impacting side streets as people try to make their way around the construction.
“From just about the start of Taunton Ave. all the way to the on ramp is over an hour,” Clark explained. “You’ve got approximately five side streets of cars all trying to merge at once, it was already a difficult area with one of the on ramps closed, now it’s almost impossible during rush hour.”
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said they are working on making improvements to the traffic patterns, sending engineers out to drive in the traffic and monitoring delays using Waze, a phone app that monitors traffic.
“We have the Waze data from before we started construction, and we’ll have the Waze data as it is performing right now,” Alviti said in an interview on Tuesday. “We’ll compared the two to see what the actual additional wait time is, and what we can do to shrink that down again.”
Clark said he’s hoping something can be done to relieve the traffic problems soon, especially with students heading back to school over the next few weeks.
“I certainly want to see the bridge get repaired, I travel over it twice a day and I want it to be safe, but there has to be a way that we can keep traffic moving,” Clark said. “Maybe open up one of the lanes, it looks like two lanes are closed down… or maybe we can do some more of the work in the evening.”