The Governor also directed RIDOT to immediately begin quarterly inspections of the structurally deficient bridges in the interchange. In addition, Governor Raimondo and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza agreed to complete the City's public feedback period within 60 days to allow RIDOT to move forward before the end of the year with finalized plans to fix, replace, or rebuild the other six remaining structurally deficient bridges.
"My absolute number one priority as Governor - above all else - is keeping people safe," said Raimondo. "We have reached a point where we need to take immediate action on the 6-10 interchange, and that's exactly what we're going to do. Thanks to the good work of the General Assembly, who came together and passed RhodeWorks, we have the funding in place we need to do this work, avoid a crisis, and keep drivers on our roads safe."
Seven of the nine bridges along the interchange have been structurally deficient for more than a decade, and some are supported by temporary "band-aids" that have been in place for so long that they too are now badly deteriorated. One bridge - the Huntington Viaduct - scored a 19 out of 100 sufficiency rating in the FHWA review. Bridges are eligible for replacement at a score of 50. Approximately 100,000 vehicles drive over these bridges every day.
"We can no longer afford to wait to replace these bridges," said RIDOT Director Alviti. "By moving forward now, we will be able to keep these bridges safe and avoid having to set weight limits or close part of the interchange - actions which would not only adversely affect commercial and passenger vehicle traffic, but also place burdens on other roads and highways with detouring traffic."
Earlier this summer, Rhode Island's FASTLANE grant application, which incorporated a more enhanced redesign of the interchange, was denied. Because of the safety concerns raised, the state does not have the luxury to wait to compete in the next FASTLANE process, nor can it afford to delay construction by two years to allow for the mandatory environmental studies required by new designs.
RIDOT will proceed with a design-build approach, which will allow the state to select a single contractor to engineer and construct the bridge replacements under the watchful eye of RIDOT's new Project Management division. While RIDOT's project for in-kind replacement only addresses the structurally deficient bridges and not the improvements envisioned under earlier design plans, including the hybrid highway-boulevard concept, the work RIDOT will perform to keep the bridges safe and open for unrestricted use and will not preclude the incorporation of future improvements including bike lanes, the missing highway connection or the BRT system.
The Governor was joined at today's press conference by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Colonel of the State Police Steven O'Donnell, and the Director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency Peter Gaynor.