A connector road from Rhode Island Route 4 to Interstate 95 South in Quonset is one step closer to reality following U.S. Sen. Jack Reed's announcement Sept. 18 that two new federal grants totaling a combined $25.3 million were awarded to the state by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
The goal of the new connector is to improve traffic flow in and around the Quonset Business Park and the "Cranston Canyon" stretch of RI Rt. 37.
"This federal funding will help improve traffic and safety conditions," Reed said in a press release. "The result will be a safer, more efficient interchange along these well-traveled commercial and freight corridors. I appreciate Secretary Chao's support for these important projects. I will continue working to ensure the federal government invests in upgrading Rhode Island's infrastructure."
A $4 million BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will be used to assist the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) in studying the construction of full freeway-to-freeway access between I-95 and Rt. 4 in Quonset, as well as from the Quonset Business Park to Rt. 4 via Rt 403.
Direct access between the highways currently only goes from I-95 North to Rt. 4 with no direct access from Rt. 4 to I-95 South, a "missing move" RIDOT plans to spend $5 million to address. In doing so, the state agency wants to slow down the direct transportation coming out of the business park and the nearby Port of Davisville, each of which have increasingly added to Rhode Island's economic vitality over the past decade.
"World class infrastructure is the key to Quonset's success," explained Quonset Development Corporation CEO Steve King. "Improved access will enhance the business park and make the remaining development opportunities here even more marketable. We appreciate and value the support of Sen. Reed and all our partners in government at the state, local and federal level. Quonset's success is a result of everyone working together as a team and is a window into what is possible in Rhode Island."
The larger federal grant, totaling approximately $21.3 million, will be used to rebuild six bridge structures in Cranston as well as add a third lane to I-295, allowing more room for commuters and commercial vehicles across the busy stretch of highway. The project, which RIDOT estimated will cost a total of $85 million, is expected to repair 70,000 square feet of structurally deficient bridge deck and work to increase safety along the roadway.
The new grant comes on top of a previous $20 million federal award in 2017 for the purpose of paying for the Route 37 Bridge and Roadway Improvement Project, which is currently under way.
The USDOT's Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) program focuses on funding projects that promote economic development and improve infrastructure, the latter an important note as Rhode Island consistently ranks last in national infrastructure surveys and something Gov. Gina Raimondo's RhodeWorks initiative is working to address.
The Quonset Business Park is the largest business center in the state and the Port of Davisville is one of the busiest auto import centers in the country. A 2019 study found that the two have supported $4.3 billion in economic output in the state of Rhode Island.
No construction timetable has yet been given for the road projects.