“I love the smell of asphalt in the morning.”
That’s what Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Peter Alviti Jr. said to kick off the ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened Exit 10 on Route 295 last Thursday.
After more than a year of construction in the Greenville Avenue area centered around the Citizens Bank campus, the newly completed I-295 highway interchange will, according to DOT, serve area residents and businesses and provide an alternative to Route 6 or Route 44 commercial corridors for those seeking access to and from the highway.
“It’s an exciting day to open a new piece of transportation infrastructure for the residents and businesses of Rhode Island. It’s been 15 years since we last opened a new highway interchange just down the road from here in Johnston to serve dozens of businesses at the Central Landfill,” said Alviti. “That ramp, like this one on Greenville Avenue, was built to support economic development and business growth, while affording the most direct route for cars and trucks going to those businesses.”
Alviti called the new interchange a “unique venture” and a “great example” of a public and private partnership. Designated as Exit 10, the new highway ramps cost approximately $7 million to build, with RIDOT contributing $3 million to the cost as well as project oversight, and Citizens Bank funding the remainder.
“Public-private partnership is another tool in our toolbox as we look to build the best transportation system that we can for the residents of Rhode Island and to support its economic growth,” said Alviti. “At RIDOT, we look at these ramps as a win all the way around. The state, receives a new interchange at less than half the cost of building it ourselves, residents of Johnston have a new travel option for highway access and avoiding congestion on busy Route 6 and Route 44, and new economic development in the Citizens campus.”
Governor Gina Raimondo, who was at the dedication and has toured the Citizens Bank campus multiple times as construction progresses, praised the work of DOT and the partnership of all involved in completing the project.
“This is a big day for the town of Johnston. This is a great day for Johnston because it’s going to make life more convenient, it’s going to help attract businesses, and, frankly, it’s been a long time in coming,” said Raimondo. “This is what happens when everybody comes together. This is a great example of doing things differently, and we’ve got to move past the same old way of doing things to get things done.”
Raimondo thanked Citizens Bank for making the investment and saving the state from paying the full expense, and Johnston’s administration for approving and assisting with the campus project. She also thanked the construction workers for their dedication.
“We’ve been stuck for about 15 years, so when we move these barrels it’s more than just a new infrastructure, a new ramp, a new highway; it’s a symbol of Rhode Island being on the move again,” said Raimondo.
Mayor Joseph Polisena, who helped forge the arrangement that brought the Citizens Bank campus to town, was excited at the prospects the new interchange creates for residents.
“The Patriots have nothing on me; I’ve got the Super Bowl team. My council members are simply the best, my state delegation, they’ve helped us out tremendously with this, and this is important,” said Polisena. “I want to commend the trade union, the working men and women who have been on this road for about a year and a half. They’ve done a remarkable job and it goes to show you that they get things done on time.”
Polisena commended Citizens Bank for immersing themselves into the local community and for investing in the town.
“Citizens Bank could have gone somewhere else, a couple of miles up the road to Massachusetts or they could have gone to Connecticut, but they wanted to stay in Rhode Island because they have faith and trust in our local government,” said Polisena.
Mike Knipper, head of property at the campus development and an executive vice president at Citizens, has been with the project since its inception, overseeing nearly all aspects of development. While the campus is planned to open on August 14, he recognized that the campus construction project has been a long road for nearby residents to endure.
“I would like to close by thanking the folks in Johnston, thanking the people of the surrounding community because I know that work on the ramps and work on the roads has been a huge inconvenience to people over the last year and a half, and I really appreciate their patience,” said Knipper.
He acknowledged that, without the construction of the ramps, the Citizens project would not have moved forward in town. He voiced his and his company’s appreciation to all involved in completing the ramps in less than two years.
Some additional repaving work is required on Greenville Avenue. Citizens Bank is responsible for repaving to Salina Avenue. The lower portion of Greenville Avenue from Salina to George Waterman is the responsibility of National Grid and is separate from the Citizens project.
Residents have voiced their concerns about potential traffic problems on Greenville Avenue with the Citizens campus opening and people using the new ramps. However, Alviti said he did not believe that would be a major issue. “It’ll be a new kind of traffic that’s introduced here, and there may be some effects locally on this particular road. But there will also be beneficial effects on areas like Route 44, where there’s a lot of congestion,” said Alviti, who added that work will soon commence to repair all of the Route 295 bridges in Johnston next spring and that the projects have been put out to bid.
“With the addition of the bank here, I think these ramps are necessary in order to control the kind of traffic congestion that can come with this kind of development. It’s all been designed to handle those kinds of circumstances. It’ll take some getting used to,” he said.
While drivers will take time getting used to the new traffic patterns, the Johnston Police Department will be monitoring traffic on the roads carefully.
“We’re going to increase patrols on Greenville Avenue with the new construction and with the new ramps now open,” said Johnston Police Chief Richard S. Tamburini. “It’s day by day; we’re going to see how it goes with the traffic patterns, and I’m sure we’re going to make adjustments until we get it right. We will get it right in a very short period of time.”