PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – With Gov. Gina Raimondo calling for the R.I. Department of Transportation to fast track plans for the reconstruction of the Route 6/10 connector, the Elorza administration on Monday released its own proposal aimed at connecting neighborhoods and spurring economic development while easing traffic in and out of the city.
The city’s plan would come in two phases, first focusing on the area that extends from Hartford Avenue to Broadway and later on the area between Tobey and Dean Streets. The initial project would include the construction of what officials call a “halo” structure that would connect Route 10 north to Route 6 west. Below the halo would be a free-flowing highway that leads into downtown.
In a briefing with reporters before the unveiling, city officials said they are still trying to determine the cost for their proposal, but suggested the project would be cheaper than rebuilding the existing highway system. They acknowledged their plan would likely take longer to complete. The city is also in the process of conducting a traffic analysis for its proposal.
The city’s plan comes nearly a month after Raimondo announced she wants to move quickly to repair the existing bridges, effectively killing an idea to transform the 6/10 into a surface-level boulevard. The governor’s plan was widely criticized by community groups.
Elorza officials said they crafted their proposal following two public forums and many meetings with stakeholders throughout the city. They said their plan would add two miles of new bike trails while also reclaiming about 55 acres of land for economic development opportunities.
The city’s plan would include between eight and 10 opportunities to get onto the 6/10 compared to the seven that currently exist. There would be between seven and nine opportunities to exit the connector compared to the existing four.
The proposal laid out by the Elorza administration is likely to receive more public support than Raimondo’s vision, but city officials acknowledged they have no way of preventing the state from moving forward with its plan and no intention of interfering with the project.
Seven of the nine 6/10 bridges are currently classified as structurally deficient. Most were built in the 1950s, and RIDOT says they carry nearly 100,000 vehicles a day.
The biggest concern among the nine bridges, according to RIDOT officials, is the Huntington Avenue Viaduct bridge that goes over the Amtrak train tracks. Recent inspections by RIDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) showed an accelerating pace of deterioration there, they said, which led RIDOT to recommend moving forward immediately with replacing the 6/10 bridges as is.
The $400 million estimated cost to pay for the state’s 6/10 project was included in the $4.7-billion RhodeWorks law passed earlier this year by the General Assembly. The measure calls for new tolls on trucks, set to start as soon as next year, and borrowing against federal aid to help fund bridge projects.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.