Route 146 at I-295 bridges looking south (RIDOT photo)
Rhode Island's two United States senators, along with its congressmen, were joined by other state and local leaders Sept. 2 on the side of State Route 146 in Smithfield to announce much-needed improvements to the roadway, made possible by a federal $65 million INFRA grant.
On hand to highlight the road upgrades were Sen. Jack Reed, Sen.Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Representative Jim Langevin, and his House colleague Congressman David Cicilline.
The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary funds were secured earlier this summer by Rhode Island's Congressional delegation for the Route 146 project
Also present to describe the enterprise was Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti Jr.
The estimated $150 million build will replace multiple bridges along the Route 146 corridor, repave 8 mi. of roadway and correct numerous safety and congestion problems — including at the Sayles Hill Road interchange where the announcement took place.
RIDOT will remove the traffic signal where Route 146 meets Sayles Hill Road and build a bridge so the highway can pass freely over Sayles Hill Road. This intersection averages more than 85 crashes per year and is a source of significant congestion and travel delay. It is the only signalized intersection on the entire Route 146 highway corridor in Rhode Island.
"Today, we are announcing the start of relief for the 170,000 vehicles that navigate the bumps and ruts of Route 146 every day. Help is on the way. This is a critical transportation route that has gone unimproved for far too long," Alviti said. "Once again our Congressional delegation has gone to bat for Rhode Island and delivered tens of millions of dollars in grant funding so we can properly address all our concerns with Route 146 in a single project. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude."
In his remarks, Reed, the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, said, "This federal investment will allow RIDOT to go beyond simply fixing what we have. It will lead to significant safety improvements, including the reconfiguration of the Sayles Hill Road intersection."
Whitehouse authored INFRA in 2015 to help meet Rhode Island's need for large-scale infrastructure investments
"I developed the INFRA program to clear our national backlog of major infrastructure projects, including the overhaul of Route 146," he said. "As anyone who lives in the northern part of the state will tell you, driving on 146 can be a real headache. I'm thrilled that RIDOT won its largest federal grant ever and is ready to get Rhode Islanders to work upgrading Route 146 with new bridges and a modernized design."
Other highlights of the project include:
- Replacing two bridges along the corridor and doing preservation work on four others,
- Building frontage roads for easy and safe access to businesses at the Sayles Hill Road interchange,
- Repaving Route 146 from the I-295 interchange to the Massachusetts state line,
- Adding bus-on-shoulder accommodations along the southern end of Route 146 in North Providence and Providence,
- Extending existing fiber optic lines and Intelligent Transportation Systems/traffic monitoring from the I-295 interchange to the Massachusetts state line,
- Rebuilding the Route 146/Route 146A interchange, removing dangerous U-turns by building a diverging diamond interchange,
- Extending the weave length for the Route 99 ramp and Route 146 south,
- Improving the geometry of the I-295 southbound off-ramp to Route 146,
- Building new drainage systems, and
- Replacing guardrails and making other safety improvements such as wrong way driving detection systems
"I'm thrilled to join my Congressional colleagues and state officials in beginning long-anticipated improvements along Route 146," said Langevin. "Improving Rhode Island's roads promotes a robust local economy, enhances quality of life, and creates good employment opportunities.
"Going forward, we must guarantee investments in Rhode Island's future...even in the face of financial challenges posed by COVID-19," the congressman continued. "As Rhode Island and states across the nation face budget shortfalls, I will be working with RIDOT Director Alviti and my colleagues to introduce legislation ensuring federal highway funds continue to be available to cash-strapped states and that good-paying construction jobs remain in the Ocean State."
Cicilline added, "Our Congressional delegation works together very effectively to make sure Rhode Island has the funding it needs for vital projects like this. I look forward for this work getting started and the difference it will make for Rhode Islanders when it's completed."
More than 171,000 vehicles travel Route 146 between Providence and Worcester, Mass., each day.
Design work is well under way on the highway and RIDOT anticipates advertising for construction in late 2021, with construction starting in spring 2022. The entire project is expected to be complete in 2025.
The Route 146 Project is made possible by RhodeWorks, the RIDOT's ongoing commitment to repair structurally deficient bridges and bring Rhode Island's transportation infrastructure into a state of good repair, promote economic development and create jobs.