Students speak on effects of Washington Bridge closure

The Washington Bridge, located on the Seekonk River between Providence and East Providence, shut down the westbound side Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023 due to structural issues such as broken rods.

During the reconstruction, some components of the bridge were found to be in “critical failure,” according to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. The bridge holds more than 96,000 vehicles per day and is on one of the busiest highways in Rhode Island, I-195.

“I was shocked when I found out,” third-year University of Rhode Island Biomedical engineering student, Angel Berganza, said. “Getting around those first few days was impossible to drive around. A quick trip to the mall turned into a 30-minute mission.”

During the first few days of the closure, drivers used a detour route to Henderson Bridge to cross over into Providence. RIDOT also provided free ferry rides from Bristol to Providence to alleviate traffic congestion within the detours.

On Dec. 15, 2023, RIDOT opened two temporary westbound bypass lanes on the eastbound side to alleviate traffic congestion on the detour routes.

On Feb. 9, RIDOT created a “time travel tool” on their website to help drivers see the traffic times for future drives; this tool shows charts for multiple detour routes, changes in travel times from before the closure to now and time differences from Monday through Sunday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m..

They used the same data as other GPS services such as Google and Waze to calculate travel times, according to RIDOT. There are also live cameras across the bridge for people to view as they plan their routes.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 21, Governor Dan McKee announced that RIDOT will be adjusting the temporary traffic patterns to allow for three lanes going both east and west on I-195 to allow for more traffic flow within the area.

“Rhode Island remains committed to addressing concerns at the Washington Bridge and providing relief to drivers and travelers,” said McKee in a press release on Feb. 21 on the RIDOT website.

The extra lanes are expected to alleviate traffic congestion on local streets within East Providence, according to McKee. RIDOT’s work on the extra lanes started on Monday, with designing and ordering materials.

According to RIDOT, The Federal Highway Administration certified the safety and structure of the eastbound lane to support the extra lanes. The construction of adding on the additional lanes will take place about eight weeks from Monday, Feb. 26.

A $78 million budget was set for the Washington Bridge project in 2021, according to RIDOT. They were also given a $25 million federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant towards the construction of the bridge, as well as towards new exits.

Although the complete construction project is set to be completed in 2026, it is not made clear by any press releases when the bridge will reopen on the westbound side. Alternate options include the bus, which is available right here on campus.

“The bus is just a safer and easier way to get around Providence when I want to see my family.” Berganza said.

Rhode Island Public Transit Authority offers students 50% off of bus fares for monthly, day and hourly passes. Bus route 66 can be taken from URI, directly outside of the Memorial Union to Kennedy Plaza or the Providence Station. Bus route 14 can be taken from Salt Pond Plaza to Kennedy Plaza for students living in the Narragansett area.

For all upcoming updates on the Washington Bridge construction, visit RIDOT’s website at Or you can visit The Providence Journal’s website at