PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The sudden westbound closure of one of the busiest bridges in Rhode Island has stranded commuters for hours and sent others driving way off their normal path as the state’s congressional delegation sought federal funds to speed up emergency repairs.
State authorities said a critical structural failure in the Washington Bridge resulted in the closure late afternoon on Dec. 11. The bridge carries Interstate 195 over the Seekonk River from Providence to East Providence and serves as a key gateway to the state’s largest city. The bridge carries close to 100,000 vehicles every day.
“What’s normally a morning commute time of a 40-to-45-minute drive was 4 1/2 hours,” John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said on Dec. 12. He was able to work from home on Dec. 13.
The repair work could take months. Traffic was being redirected to two lanes on the eastbound side for now.
Gov. Dan McKee and state and local officials planned to give an update on the response to the partial closure on the afternoon of Dec. 13. McKee was in East Providence with Mayor Bob DaSilva in the morning to survey traffic conditions and identify areas that need a change in traffic patterns.
“Public safety is paramount. There are lots of moving parts here and we will ensure the federal government does its part to assist Rhode Island with getting this bridge repaired and reopened,” the state’s congressional delegation said in a news release.
U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo said they wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging the government to free up existing funding that could accelerate completion of the emergency work on the bridge.
The delegation also urged technical assistance from the federal government to optimize work on faster repairs, lane shifts, detour design and shuttle buses.
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