Interstate 95

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Interstate 95 enters the state near Westerly and travels northeast through Warwick, Cranston, Providence and Pawtucket. Envisioned as early as the 1940s as part of the Rhode Island Department of Public Works (RIDPW) expressway plan, a 12.2 mile long freeway was to open by 1953 from Cranston north to Pawtucket. However as plans unfolded, the first section of freeway to open was the stretch between the Connecticut state line and Exit 4 (Rhode Island Route 3) by December of 1955, and between Exits 4 and 6 by July 1958. The initial freeway stretch was incorporated into Interstate 95 by 1959.1

Interstate 95 Rhode Island Guides

Construction on the other freeways to be incorporated into Interstate 95 included the completion of a six-lane bridge over the Pawtucket River in 1956. The span opened initially to local traffic with ramps to U.S. 1 on each side. Right of way acquisition to the north and south of that stretch commenced in 1958 and were complete by late 1961. By December 1965, Interstate 95 was complete between Exit 16 (Huntington Expressway) and the Massachusetts state line.1

Completion of the remaining length of Interstate 95 followed with the opening of a four-lane freeway between Exits 8 and 9, and a six lane freeway from Exit 9 (Route 4) and Exit 16 (Route 10) in November 1968. The last stretch to open between Exits 6 and 8 occurred on November 22, 1969 and reconstruction of the 1950s-built section to the southwest followed.1

Costing $623 million, construction of the Iway project involving the realignment of Interstate 195 included a new interchange with I-95 that eliminated exit ramps. Opening of the northbound ramp to I-195 east occurred on November 5, 2007.2 The southbound off-ramp to I-195/U.S. 6 east followed on December 5, 2008.3 The original interchange (Exit 20) was subsequently demolished.

Further north in Pawtucket, an $81 million project replaced an ailing bridge across the Seekonk River along Interstate 95. A 18 ton weight limit restriction was implemented on the crossing in August 2008 due to deterioration of steel beams and the concrete deck.4,6 Located between Exits 27 and 28, the Pawtucket River Bridge comprises a set of three separate bridges. Initial work on the project began in November 2010 with work on the new collector distributor roadway for I-95 north. The c/d roadway takes motorists from the George Street on-ramp across the Pawtucket River Bridge to School Street and Route 114. Three steel arches were incorporated into the design of the new span. These were set in place for the c/d roadway bridge in November 2011.5 Completion of this bridge followed on April 20, 2012, with the truck restriction lifted as northbound traffic was diverted to it from a 1958-built bridge.6

Work continued with demolition of the original northbound span, allowing for its replacement. The second span of the new Pawtucket River Bridge opened for southbound traffic on September 14, 2012. This eliminated the remaining truck restriction for I-95 and allowed for the removal of the 1958-built southbound bridge.7 A dedication ceremony marking the completion of the Pawtucket River Bridge took place on September 5, 2013.8 The new permanent southbound span opened to traffic, allowing northbound traffic to move to the second bridge and the first bridge to be converted for use as a c/d roadway.

Groundbreaking on another major upgrade to Interstate 95 in Rhode Island took place on July 15, 2013. Initially estimated to cost nearly $150 million, work replaced the 1,300 foot long9 1964 viaducts for I-95 across the Woonasquatucket River and AMTRAK, between Exits 21 and 23. Broken into multiple phases over a planned five year span, early phase construction focused on building a new southbound span to the west of the existing roadway. Northbound traffic was to shift to the old southbound bridge upon completion, allowing for the removal of the old northbound viaduct.8

Work also involved replacing the Smith Street overpass and expanding Exit 21 to Federal Hill. The $193 million Providence Viaduct project was extended to Fall 2021 by 2014, with the new southbound lanes expected to open in late 2015. However delays further pushed back work to a Spring 2021 start date with completion anticipated for Summer 2025. All new lanes for I-95 will be 12 feet in width.9

Interstate 95 scenes
Eastbound Route 117 (Centerville Road) at the folded diamond interchange with I-95 in Warwick. 06/25/05

  1. North-South Expressway (I-95).
  2. "First Iway section opens to the public." Providence Journal (RI), November 5, 2007.
  3. "Fasten your seat belts - Exit to Route 195 shifts from left to right." Providence Journal (RI), December 5, 2008.
  4. "DOT gives update on Pawtucket bridge." Times, The (Pawtucket, RI), October 26, 2010.
  5. "RIDOT starts construction of steel arches on Pawtucket River Bridge." Times, The (Pawtucket, RI), October 18, 2011.
  6. "TRANSPORTATION - New bridge spanning Pawtucket River ready for northbound traffic." Providence Journal (RI), April 20, 2012.
  7. "Second span of Pawtucket River bridge opening." Associated Press State Wire: Rhode Island (RI), September 13, 2012.
  8. "A spanning celebration - Ceremony salutes newly completed I-95 bridge." Times, The (Pawtucket, RI), September 6, 2013.
  9. "Providence Viaduct project to replace spans begins." Associated Press State Wire: Rhode Island (RI), July 14, 2013.
  10. "Bridging the gap | providence viaduct." Providence Journal (RI), September 16, 2014.

Photo Credits:

06/25/05 by AARoads and Carter Buchanan

Connect with:
Interstate 195
Interstate 295
U.S. 6
Route 4
Route 10
Route 102

Page Updated 03-20-2023.

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