Michael P. Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, addresses attendees prior to the ceremonial swinging of a gold wrecking ball Nov. 15 to start the demolition of old I-195 in Providence.
Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Michael P. Lewis swung a gold wrecking ball Nov. 15 to start the demolition of old I-195 in Providence. The Jersey barrier at old Exit 2 eastbound “Wickenden Street/India Point” cracked more with every pounding.
Underneath the last remnants of the old Providence East-West highway system is prime commercial land that the city of Providence and the state desperately need to pay their part (about 20 percent) of the $610 million IWAY project that is virtually complete.
With the end of the old highway comes the beginning of new economic prosperity for a struggling, nearly bankrupt state that is in desperate need of tax revenue from new sources.
“If we are going to succeed in the 21st century economy, we must have a world-class, efficient, reliable transportation system. Investing in our state’s infrastructure is a powerful economic tool,” said Carcieri at the ceremony. “This project will open up approximately 20 acres of prime commercial real estate that will become a center for the growing medical and life sciences industry in Rhode Island.
“The investments we have made in our transportation system, including Route 403 in Quonset, the InterLink at TF Green Airport, and the IWAY are investments in our economic development and our ability to improve the flow of business and create jobs,” he added.
IWAY or the Highway
During this project, RIDOT will be demolishing more than 3,500 ft. (1,067 m) of old I-195. Other contracts demolished an additional 1,500 ft. (457.2 m) of the old highway. Old I-195 was built in the late 1950s and was officially closed in late 2009.
“Now that the IWAY is nearing completion, clearing out the obsolete sections of I-195 is the next step,” said Lewis. “Once the old structure is gone the entire landscape of Providence will change.”
The demolition of old I-195 will open up about 35 acres of land, which will be used to build new streets throughout Providence. This includes about 20 acres of new parcels that will be used for private development and new parks along the waterfront. It also will allow for the construction of a new bicycle/pedestrian bridge on the existing highway piers, which connects both sides of the river at newly proposed parks.
“There has been a lot of work performed on the IWAY. It started in 1999 and has resulted in major improvements for the transportation system on (Routes) 195 and 95,” said RIDOT Head of Construction Frank Carrao. “Since the project has come into play, it will benefit the city of Providence for several reasons.
“First, it will open up property within the city proper for development, which will ultimately end up on the tax rolls,” said Carrao. “Secondly, the roadway and embankments crosses, almost bisects, the city, creating new throughways. Barriers will open up. This will reconnect the city streets and open up the waterfront along the Providence River. This property will be open space and parks.”
Carrao said that as time goes on, and the property gets redesigned and remarketed, the state would need to sell parcels to offset the cost of the IWAY project.
“The city gains parcels of lands that are not generating any money and puts them on the tax rolls,” said Carrao. “It’s very tough to say in dollars, because the market readjusts, so I can’t really estimate values [at present].”
Cardi Doing the Work
Cardi Corporation of Providence is the general contractor in removing the debris. Carrao could not estimate how much concrete and steel would come down from the 3,500 ft. of the old highway being crushed, but added that some 250,000 cu. yds. (191,139 cu m) of material — dirt and fill — in addition to the concrete and steel, would be taken away over the next six months.
“Rhode Island Resource Recovery at the State Landfill will be taking out a significant amount for cover and fill they need. The city of Providence needs material for caps and fill, also, and they have asked for a portion of the earth material to do the caps,” said Carrao. “East Providence has a need as well. The two cities will be using between 30,000 to 50,000 cubic yards.”
Carrao said the clean up would finish by next summer.
“As they take down the structure, they will bring down the grade. They will go right through it as they demolish the remaining structure, grade the area,” he added. “They will landscape in spring, cap the fill. The street connection project starts out next year. The whole thing should wrap up in mid or late 2012.”
The demolition of the remainder of 195 is a $6.8 million project, said Carrao.
The Last Piece
“This is the last piece of the old highway,” said Carrao. Previously, demolition crews had taken a small segment from 195 to Wickenden Street. This project goes from Wickenden Street on the East side of the city to Interstate 95. “This is the last of the major deconstruction and construction of IWAY work.”
“The last contract will be the reconnection of the city streets, repaving, re-curbing and marketing them,” he said. “It will become a new transportation network for the city of Providence. We really have improved the traffic patterns of the city for road users. We have made improvements to the transportation system and significantly cut down on commuter time for driving hours. State Police have said we have also significantly reduced commuter crashes by some 66 percent. That is impressive,” he concluded.
An Entirely New Look
Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) expects to be the lead agency in marketing and disposing of the land on behalf of the state, according to Melissa Chambers, media liaison of RIEDC.
“When the IWAY is fully open and the obsolete portion of I-195 comes down, Providence will have an entirely new look,” said RIDOT Director Michael Lewis. “New streets will be built and old ones reconnected, giving Downcity opportunities for growth and expansion that haven’t been available in decades.”
RIEDC released a report last year that makes recommendations for the redevelopment of the parcels of land that transform Providence and its riverfront. These parcels comprise 35 acres of new land in what is known as The Jewelry District, Old Harbor, Fox Point and College Hill — the home of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design — on either side of the Providence River, north of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier.
The report focuses on three main objectives for reuse of the land: an increased tax base, economic development to attract industries and jobs to the area, and urban revitalization.
“With the relocation of Interstate 95, the tear in the fabric of downtown will be repaired, and a new vibrant neighborhood can grow in the city,” said Thomas E. Diller, director of the department of planning and development for the city. CEG