By JOHN HOWELL
Navigating “The Canyon” is nothing like running the rapids. In fact, it’s almost a daily occurrence to be far from “The Canyon” when traffic comes to a …
By JOHN HOWELL
Navigating “The Canyon” is nothing like running the rapids. In fact, it’s almost a daily occurrence to be far from “The Canyon” when traffic comes to a standstill on Route 37 with vehicles lined up ready to shoot the nonexistent “rapids. “
The Department of Transportation with a lot of help – that’s money we’re talking about – aims to fix that with an even wider canyon. Actually, the canyon walls won’t be widened, but a third lane will be added to the northbound lane of Route 295 from Route 37 to the Route 6 interchange in Johnston.
Friday afternoon U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti and other state and local leaders gathered on Phenix Avenue, “to break ground” for the $85 million Cranston Canyon Project.
The choice of locations, a bridge, was to give the media a panoramic view of traffic crawling through the canyon below. But the Phenix Ave. bridge wasn’t designed for canyon views with its high chain link fencing or for a ground breaking. The bridge of steel and cement provided no opportunity for officials to wield shovels or on the count of “three” toss dirt in the direction of reporters.
In place of the advertised ground breaking, DOT officials had an unveiling of signs that will populate the project that incorporates more than adding a third lane to the canyon.
The Cranston Canyon a design-build project, was awarded to Aetna Bridge with AECOM, the lead design firm. The design-build process is advantageous because it often provides innovative solutions to the construction of the project, including keeping traffic moving through these busy corridors with the least amount of disruption possible. It also allows design and construction activities to take place at the same time. This approach, in concert with the use of accelerated bridge construction methods, will shave a year off the construction schedule, according to a DOT press release.
DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin explained that rather than fully designing and engineering the project that includes rebuilding six bridges, building a one new bridge along the Route 37 corridor west of Pontiac Avenue and repositioning the ramp from I-295 North to Route 37 West to eliminate a conflicting weave among other improvements, design build allows for construction to start as each phase is designed.
“RIDOT is able to move ahead with this project thanks in large part to the efforts of our Congressional delegation which once more went to bat for us and helped secure a $21 million federal BUILD grant,” Director Alviti said in the release. “With these extra funds, we have been able to put together a very comprehensive project to solve traffic problems, fix deteriorated bridges and make these highways safer; all in a single project.”
“Anyone who has driven through the ‘Cranston Canyon’ section of I-295 when traffic is backed up knows it can be a commuter’s congestion nightmare,” Reed said. He pointed out that in excess of 84,000 vehicles navigate the canyon daily and that adding a third lane will address congestion and make for more enjoyable commutes and enhance efficiency.
“This project will also allow RIDOT to repair a number of structurally deficient bridges and boost traffic safety,” he said. Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Subcommittee helped create the BUILD grant program (formerly known as TIGER) and has led efforts to fund it.
“Projects like this are why the Congressional delegation works so hard to land federal funding for infrastructure upgrades,” Whitehouse said. “I’m pleased federal dollars will help Rhode Islanders travel an important stretch of road more safely and efficiently, and glad to have partners like Senator Reed and Congressmen Langevin and Cicilline fighting with me in Washington to bring those dollars home.”
Carlos Machado, district director of the U. S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration applauded the improvements that will mean for safer conditions. In remarks, he pointed to the volume of fatalities on the nation’s highways and how they increased even during the pandemic, saying he would not be happy until the numbers drop to zero. He said motorists are driving 75 and 80 MPH and called for people to slow down for their own and the safety of others.
The Cranston Canyon project will be completed in 2026. It continues RIDOT’s efforts to address all the bridges on the Route 37 corridor, representing a second phase which began in 2020 with the $79.5 million Route 37 Bridges Project. That project is addressing 15 bridges from Post Road to Pontiac Avenue and is scheduled to be finished in 2023.
Approximately 84,000 vehicles travel on I-295 North between Route 37 and Route 14 and 36,500 vehicles travel on Route 37, west of Pontiac Avenue.
All construction projects are subject to changes in schedule and scope depending on needs, circumstances, findings, and weather.
The Cranston Canyon Project is made possible by RhodeWorks, 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. Learn more at www.ridot.net/RhodeWorks.
On Wednesday the DOT reported preliminary design field work is underway, with minor construction work to start this fall, and the majority of the work to start in spring 2023.
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