Governor threatens ‘day of reckoning’ as report condemns Washington Bridge

The Washington Bridge carries Interstate 195 over the Seekonk River (Marcbela/Public domain)
Rhode Island state governor Dan McKee will launch an investigation after an independent report recommended that a vital bridge in the state be demolished and rebuilt.

He said he was “deeply disturbed” by the report on the Washington Bridge, completed in 1969, which carries some 100,000 vehicles a day over the Seekonk River that divides Providence from East Providence.

The report said its superstructure and most of its substructure would have to be replaced.

The bridge has separate eastbound and westbound spans. The westbound one was partially closed on 11 December after engineers from the state’s transport department discovered “the critical failure of some original bridge components”.

The structure had been rated “poor” in an inspection carried out by the Federal Highway Administration in June.

The closure added several hours to drivers’ commuting times, and prompted some schools to hold classes remotely.

McKee told reporters that his administration was going to investigate what led up to the need to shut down and replace the bridge.

He said: “We’re going to fix the bridge, we’re going to make it right, and we’re going to make sure we keep people safe. We will hold all responsible parties fully accountable. The day of reckoning is coming and coming soon.”

Peter Alviti, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, said the investigation would be carried out by the state’s justice department. He also said the replacement should be open before September 2026.

According to Alviti, the cost to demolish and replace the bridge will come to between $250m and $300m, and that some of the cost may be met by federal grants.

During the demolition and construction of the new bridge, the state will reroute some traffic over the eastbound bridge structure.

Alviti had warned of the bridge’s poor condition in a 2019 grant application to rehabilitate it, writing that it was “nearing a permanent state of disrepair”.

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