ROADS/BRIDGES: Rhode Island plans $595 million highway cap

June 2, 2016

Most of the project would be paid through the state's 10-year transportation repair plan that lawmakers passed and Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo signed this year

Rhode Island is seeking federal help to replace a dilapidated highway interchange with a $595 million project that would bury a Providence expressway beneath a park-lined boulevard.

Critics warn the project could be another Big Dig—Boston's Central Artery project that achieved similar results in 2007 after decades of cost overruns that totaled more than $20 billion.

Transportation officials consider the comparison off-base because there is no digging involved. They say the interchange of Routes 6 and 10 needs an urgent fix because seven of its nine bridges are structurally deficient, and capping the freeway would heal some of the social wounds caused by mid-20th century planners who carved an ugly bypass through once-thriving neighborhoods.

The estimated cost is $595 million, not including a proposed rapid bus line that could be added later.

More than 90,000 trips are made through the 6/10 interchange each day, but its bridges are structurally deficient.

It has also harmed surrounding neighborhoods such as Olneyville Square, once considered Providence's second downtown but now one of the city's poorest districts. A big element of the plan is to hide that urban chasm and reunite long-severed neighborhoods.