How RIDOT is working to improve one of the state’s most dangerous intersections

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections in Rhode Island: Memorial Boulevard in downtown Providence.

An average of 45 crashes occur at the intersection each year, according to Robert Rocchio, acting chief engineer at the state Department of Transportation, putting it in the top ten worst in Rhode Island.

Located right near the Providence Place Mall and a number of restaurants, there’s a lot of car and foot traffic in the area, and Rocchio says drivers and pedestrians often fail to follow the rules of the road.

“We saw vehicles not yielding to pedestrians, pedestrians crossing illegally,” he said. “Work is going on here, police in the area, and they’re still doing it!”

While some of the illegal movements are willful, Rocchio believes a large percentage are the result of people being confused by the intersection’s unconventional layout.

Back in March, Eyewitness News gave you an inside look at RIDOT’s plan to improve several dangerous stretches of road, which included Memorial Boulevard. Rocchio said the agency is constantly looking at crash data and once they determine where accidents happen, they come up with a list to tackle the problem areas.

According to RIDOT, Memorial Boulevard is ranked eighth in Providence for pedestrians being struck. Rocchio said one of the ways they hope to prevent that from happening is changing where people can cross.

“We actually eliminated sidewalks, put planting there to dissuade anyone who would attempt to cross there,” he explained.

RIDOT also hopes to improve pedestrian safety by adding an audible device to let people know when it’s safe to cross.

The agency says there’s also a problem with drivers going the wrong way, which is why it implemented a new system that aims to prevent crashes.

“It will detect a vehicle driving the wrong direction going up the off ramp,” said Rocchio. “It will alert our Transportation Management Center, we’ll post signs on the freeway warning motorists of an approaching wrong-way driver and alert police departments as well.”

In an effort to avoid clutter and improve visibility, Rocchio said RIDOT removed a number of signs from the intersection.

“Bigger, better signage,” he said. “What we can call ‘cat tracks,’ or pavement markings, to show where the movements they can go, straight or left.”

Rocchio estimates that after the project is completed, it will reduce crashes by 75 percent. While it won’t eliminate all accidents, he hopes safety will be greatly increased.

“We tried to make as many improvements as possible to make it easier for everyone to navigate through this intersection,” he said.

The total cost of the project is $1.8 million.