PROVIDENCE -- The state Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced that the Gano Street off-ramp for Route 195 West will remain open after all.
The state had exasperated neighborhood leaders and business owners in recent years by closing the ramp, opening it again, and then studying whether it should remain open or not. Nearly 1,500 people signed an online petition calling for the ramp to stay open.
The DOT announced that, within the next week, it will issue a request for proposals for a $70 million rehabilitation of the Washington Bridge, which carries Route 195 over the Seekonk River. The bridge has been classified as structurally deficient.
In the past, transportation officials have expressed concern that traffic is backing up on Route 195 into Massachusetts at peak hours in part because cars on the Washington Bridge are swerving to get to the Gano Street off-ramp.
But on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation said it had commissioned three “in-depth traffic studies to examine the potential impacts of keeping the ramp open or closing it permanently."
And the studies concluded that the Gano Street off-ramp "can remain open while the Washington Bridge reconstruction still achieves a marked reduction in chronic traffic congestion on I-195 West.”
So the ramp will remain open “for the foreseeable future,” DOT said.
The DOT noted that the Washington Bridge project will add a lane to accommodate highway traffic and the vehicles entering from Veterans Memorial Parkway, Warren Avenue, and Taunton Avenue.
Also, it noted that the state is adding a Route 195 off-ramp that would funnel some cars to Waterfront Drive in East Providence, where they could head north to the Henderson Bridge and cross the Seekonk River to Providence’s East Side. Work on the Henderson Bridge is expected to begin this summer.
“Washington Bridge has to be rehabilitated,” DOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said in a statement. “We need to make sure that as the rebuilding goes on, we are doing it in such a way that we will clear up as many traffic jams as we can."
But, he said, "Our studies showed that keeping the (Gano Street) ramp open will not cause traffic problems.”
The three traffic studies were conducted by VHB, Commonwealth Engineers and Consultants, and McMahon Associates. “All indicated that at least for 10 years, keeping the off-ramp open will not affect traffic,” DOT said.
Nick Cicchitelli, president of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association, hailed that announcement, saying, “It’s a big win for residents and merchants in Fox Point and Wayland Square."
Gano Street and Ives Street are a pair of “resurgent small business corridors” that would have been badly hurt if the state had shut down the ramp, Cicchitelli said. Also, closing the ramp would have forced more cars to use the Henderson Bridge, leading to more congestion in Wayland Square, a busy pedestrian area, he said.
“This seems to be a pleasant end to this chapter of the Gano saga,” Cicchitelli said.
John Goncalves, who won the Ward 1 Providence City Council primary in March and is unopposed in the general election, thanked US Senator Jack Reed and the rest of the congressional delegation for securing federal funding to help pay for the bridge projects.
“While we are pleased to hear that an important vessel to our community -- the Gano Street off-ramp -- will be open for the foreseeable future, we will continue to be vigilant and insist that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and its consultants publicly release its traffic studies," Goncalves said.
He said he wants to ensure that residents and businesses "receive the transparency, communication , and input that they deserve as this construction project gets underway.”