Interstate 195 over the Providence River

The roadway system of on and off ramps when I-195 cut through the Jewelry District and over the Providence River

About this Property

Reason for Demolition

An upgrade to the roadway system in 2010 led to the removal of the elevated highway over Dyer Street and the Providence River. The piling bases in the river itself were left behind and a new pedestrian bridge connecting the west and east shores was constructed in 2019.

For more photos, visit our property page covering the portion formerly over Wickenden Street.


From Wikipedia

I-195’s stretch through Providence was reconstructed with a $610 million project by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to relocate the Interstate 195 and Interstate 95 intersection. The relocation improved traffic safety, reunified the Jewelry District with downtown Providence, and freed up space for new development. The previous lane alignment was dangerous and created congestion, as lane shifts were often required to avoid a left sided exit-only lane. The concrete supports had deteriorated to the point that steel shoring were needed to reinforce the intersection’s many bridges.

In the process, some 35 buildings, housing over 80 businesses and six residences were demolished. The new stretch of highway is called the Iway by the RIDOT and includes a signature bridge over the Providence River as well as a landscaped pedestrian walkway over the highway connecting India Point Park to the Fox Point neighborhood.

Built in the late 1950s, RIDOT started to review plans to deal with the aging section of I-195 in the 1980s. Traffic volumes had increased tremendously over those 30 years. The highway designed for 75,000 vehicles a day carried more than 160,000. The old design had other problems. Tight curves, left-hand and closely spaced exits had contributed to excessive congestion, causing delays for motorists on I-95, the Route 6/10 connector, and on city streets.

RIDOT looked at three alternatives before choosing the one that was built. An alignment just to the north of the current highway was not selected as it would have corrected only the congestion and tight curves on I-195 itself. It would not have dealt with the weaving motorists face due to closely spaced exits at the highway interchange, nor would it have addressed better access to the Eddy Street hospitals campus, and it would have created only limited opportunities for redevelopment as outlined in the Old Harbor Plan. The plan outlines how the land occupied by the existing highway will be reused.

Another idea that was considered was a no-build alternative, one in which the existing alignment would be reconstructed. This would have addressed problems with deteriorated structures, but done nothing about the congestion, weaving conflicts and existing safety hazards. Additionally, traffic would have been severely impacted during construction.

Consideration of these choices led RIDOT to choose the alignment south of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier. Safety problems and congestion issues could be addressed, and the removal of the old highway would allow for significant redevelopment of the Providence waterfront and fuller implementation of the Old Harbor Plan. Also, the redevelopment would complement other projects including the construction of Memorial Boulevard, Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk system, and the Capital Center projects.

Captured and excerpted on February 16, 2022 from–Massachusetts)

In the News

Relocating Route 195: Cost more than double

by Bruce Landis
Providence Journal | August 31, 2010 (excerpt)

The state government’s biggest and most conspicuous public works project in years, the relocation of Route 195, is largely finished. The short stretch of highway and the new interchange with Route 95 are built and in use, as is the new Providence River Bridge.

By all accounts, the project is doing what it was supposed to: ease traffic congestion at one of the most-clogged highway interchanges in the region. State Department of Transportation (DOT) figures show it now takes much less time to get through the former bottleneck.

What isn’t visible is the price tag.

When the DOT described the plan to the public in 1993, it estimated the cost at $299 million. DOT officials now say that the figure made public then was only preliminary.

The latest estimate to relocate the short section of Route 195 is $623 million. Add the cost of the borrowing and the current estimate grows to $758 million — more than 2 1/2 times the early estimate.

The cost would be still higher had the state not removed some elements worth millions of dollars from the project. Those include dredging the Providence River above the Hurricane Barrier, at a cost of $9.8 million for construction and other expenses.

Some costs grew enormously. Where the DOT in 1998 had put the cost of engineering and design at $20 million, the figure has more than tripled, to $70 million.

Mistakes that were the DOT’s responsibility added substantially to the project cost.

The agency had to pay a $3.1-million settlement to one of contractors because of design errors on the Point Street overpass over Route 95, and the Federal Highway Administration disqualified another $3.1 million worth of concrete for reimbursement because the DOT couldn’t show that it had been inspected properly.

Many of the factors influencing the bottom line are not the DOT’s fault. Inflation affects construction like everything else, and the cost of materials, particularly concrete and steel, jumped significantly during construction. (Highway projects’ structural elements often look as though they’re made of solid concrete, but they are really concrete stuffed with steel reinforcing.) On the other hand, borrowing costs dropped because of lower interest rates.

DOT officials argue that the agency shouldn’t be held responsible for hard-to-predict inflation. They also say that the early figures on the project, until about 2001, were the best available at the time, but still preliminary. […]

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is paying roughly 80 percent of the project’s cost, with the state paying the rest with borrowed money. But the cost increase for Route 195 is huge compared with the cost of other projects — the increase alone is five times the low bid to build one major bridge, a new Route 95 bridge over the Pawtucket River.

Dollars spent on the project are dollars that can’t be spent on other projects. Meanwhile, the state’s five-year transportation improvement plan includes more than $300 million worth of projects, from bridges to road repairs, that have been put off indefinitely for lack of money. […]

A major expense arrived when the state ran short of money and had to borrow.

As early as 2001, a DOT report had predicted “short-term cash-flow shortages” during construction. Two years later, the DOT said that without major borrowing, 195 and other projects could be delayed for years.

In 2003, the project’s rising cost forced the state to borrow against its future federal highway aid, making that money unavailable for other projects.

That also added the cost of borrowing, not mentioned in the early estimates, which became a major part of the overall cost increase. The cost of debt service, principal plus interest, is now estimated at $135 million, an amount that would pay to build a major bridge. DOT officials maintain, however, that borrowing $610 million for several projects including 195 would save money because it has let the state build faster and thus avoid some added inflation.

The Carcieri administration chose “grant anticipation revenue vehicles,” […] as the borrowing mechanism. One advantage the DOT pointed to was that it created a debt structure separate from the state’s regular finances and avoided “adverse impacts on the state’s credit.”

DOT documents and reports to federal officials, meanwhile, suggest that some of the leaps in the cost of the project stemmed from unwarranted optimism at the agency. […]

Similarly, the DOT initially estimated that it would reduce the net cost of the project by $63.4 million by selling off property it acquired along with the right of way, but doesn’t need to keep. The most prominent is the former Shooter’s Waterfront Café, the bar and marina with a spectacular location at the head of Providence Harbor.

The real amount won’t be clear until the land is actually sold, but the DOT has reduced its estimate of its value of the land and is now expecting to raise only $40 million.

The DOT also told the FHWA that financial estimates before 2001 had omitted the state’s own cost of overseeing the project. By 2009, it had risen to $42 million.

It said it had also omitted the cost of change orders. Those are expenses not anticipated in construction contracts, but routinely included in estimates because they happen on virtually all projects. Change orders are now budgeted at $11 million.

In the last few years, the cost increases have flattened out, but the trend is still upward, with the estimate rising $13.3 million from 2008 to last year. However, the project is supposed to be finished in 2012, and the completion of much of the construction leaves less chance for cost increases.

LANDIS, BRUCE. “Relocating Route 195: Cost more than double.” Providence Journal (RI), 1 ed., sec. projo RhodeIsland, 31 Aug. 2010, p. A1. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 19 Feb. 2022.