Next lane shift on Providence Viaduct coming this weekend

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The traffic lanes of Interstate 95 South continue to scoot over like guests at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

Last weekend, the Providence Viaduct was shifted to a split highway configuration. From left to right, there are two through lanes southbound, then a divider, then a third through lane southbound and an exit only lane to Exit 21, Atwells Avenue, with finally two Exit 22 lanes to downtown destinations.

This weekend, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation will be shifting it all one lane west. From left to right, there will be one through lane southbound on the old viaduct bridge, the divider, then on the new bridge two southbound through travel lanes. The rightmost lane will still be exit 21, exit only to Atwells Avenue. Exit 22’s lanes will remain unaltered.

And that is still not all. In mid-November, the final lane shift will take place, taking the last lane off the old bridge and adding a new southbound through traffic lane to the new bridge.

Drivers should take it slow through the area, and avoid changing lanes, RIDOT director Peter Alviti Jr. said in a news release this week. “We urge motorists to follow information presented on overhead signage and to remember that they can continue onto I-95 South on either side of the split. There is no need to change lanes as they drive onto the bridge,” he said.

Confusion reigned last week when RIDOT tried to implement the split highway changes. Dozens of motorists thought they’d be forced to exit if they didn’t get over to the left of the split. It caused a massive traffic jam.

The department rushed to put up bigger signs and paint huge highway sign markers on the lanes, indicating that the lane split made no difference to drivers’ destinations.

The $192 million viaduct project has been ongoing since at least 2013, and is necessary to replace the bridge and widen the lanes. It’s all expected to be finished in 2021.

“We thank the motoring public for their patience,” said Alviti.

“In two weeks, the good news is everyone will be driving on a nice new bridge and it will be that way permanently.”

These changes begin at 9 p.m. on Friday.