Target 12

I-295 state police signs changed after Target 12 questions

LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) -- While driving north on I-295 into Lincoln, a green and white sign indicated state police were at the ready at the upcoming Blackstone River Valley State Park Visitor Center.

There was a second sign on the off-ramp, and parking spots for troopers in the lot.

But inside the 9,700 square foot building that was built for $4.3 million about a decade ago, visitors will not find police in their now empty satellite office.

When Target 12 asked state police about about the office, spokesperson Laura Meade Kirk said troopers moved out in 2014 due to "staff reductions." 

"Troopers still occasionally use the office there as a matter of convenience," Kirk said. "However, we have not had a steady presence there since we removed our equipment in 2014."

But the interstate sign remained, potentially causing confusion for drivers who might think help from state police was available at the location.

Target 12 asked the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) about it, and a spokesperson thanked us for pointing it out.

By late morning, crews were painting over the interstate sign, which is now blank. They did the same on the off-ramp sign.

As far as the empty restaurant space inside, the original vendors moved out in 2012.

Another business moved in for a short time, but that entity was forced to move out after the Federal Highway Administration told the state a commercial venture cannot operate on a non-tolled interstate.

Department of Environmental Management spokesperson Gail Mastrati said the DEM is working with the National Park Service, "which [they] anticipate will occupy that space." 

But Kirk said state police have not given up on returning to their office.

"Our goal is – and has always been -- to reopen the Blackstone Valley Substation at such time that we have enough troopers to cover our demands in this and other areas of the state," Kirk said. 

Mastrati pointed out the visitor center is a gateway to the Blackstone River State Park and Bikeway.

"Each year, the bikeway attracts more than 550,000 visitors and generates more than $7 million in consumer spending," Mastrati said.  

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.


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