PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The structurally deficient Henderson Bridge that carries drivers between East Providence and Providence over the Seekonk River will be replaced years earlier than planned, the R.I. Department of Transportation announced Monday.
The DOT credits U.S. Sen. Jack Reed for securing $54.5 million in the newly signed federal spending bill, which he helped draft as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bridge will cost an estimated $60 million to $70 million to replace, with the rest of the money coming from the state.
DOT Director Peter Alviti says the span, built in the late 1960s and deemed structurally deficient in 1996, has been in need of major repair for a long time; it’s one of the bridges slated to be replaced through the RhodeWorks program. Alviti said the project was expected to begin around 2025, but will now start immediately because of the influx of cash.
“This will not only allow us to accelerate that, but it saves us the money that we would spend between now and 2025, at least a couple million dollars, that we’d spend just in maintaining the bridge deck so that it can be rideable and safe,” Alviti said.
“Those temporary repairs are money that is just blown,” he added.
The six-lane Henderson Bridge is so large that it represents 12% of the state’s structurally deficient bridge deck area, according to Alviti.
The new bridge will be narrower, with just one lane of travel in each direction plus the addition of some bike and pedestrian lanes. RIDOT says the original bridge was “overbuilt” because the builders anticipated a highway would connect the east end of the bridge to I-195. That highway never came to fruition, which Alviti said means there is much less congestion on the bridge than the original designers envisioned.
Asked if the new bridge will maintain its signature red color, Alviti said: “I can’t conceivably think any reason to change its color, since traditionally it’s been known as the red bridge.”
At a news conference at the Waterman Grille Monday morning, Alviti and Gov. Gina Raimondo celebrated the federal funding alongside Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation, plus the mayors of Providence and East Providence.
“I don’t think it is at all an exaggeration to say this would not be happening without Senator Jack Reed,” Raimondo said.
She pointed out that when Reed and Alviti graduated from LaSalle Academy in 1967, the Henderson Bridge was being built. (“Though they look a lot better than this bridge,” she joked.)
Reed, who wrote the bridge provision in the spending bill, said the project would bring “hundreds if not thousands of good jobs.”
He added that he looks forward to Congress receiving an infrastructure bill from President Donald Trump, who has promised a major investment in the area during his first term.
“Our priority is building things,” Reed said. “Not walls, but bridges.”