Westbound portion of closed I-195 bridge in Rhode Island to be replaced

Washington Bridge in Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island Department of Transportation

A portion of a key bridge carrying Interstate 195 over the Seekonk River in Providence, Rhode Island closed since late December will have to be completely rebuilt. It's expected the project to replace the westbound lanes of the Washington Bridge will take until sometime in 2026.

The westbound lanes of the bridge built in 1968 were closed Dec. 11 when an inspection found "a critical failure in some bridge components." The westbound lanes were closed to traffic and one lane of the eastbound span was converted for some westbound traffic.

The initial cost estimate for the demolition and bridge replacement is between $250 million and $300 million. Both the demotion and the design-rebuild will be put out to bi. A new bridge could be completed within 18 to 24 months of a contract award, according to initial estimates.

On Friday, March 15, Gov. Dan McKee, Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, and the Governor’s Senior Deputy Chief of Staff T. Joseph Almond held a briefing to share the findings of the structural analysis and the recommendation for the future of the Washington Bridge. A separate forensic analysis of the causes behind the bridge failure is currently underway and will provide the administration with further insight into accountability in the coming weeks.

Since the two failed tie-rods were found in December 2023, an in-depth inspection of the bridge was performed by a team of engineering companies and reviewed by McNary, Bergeron & Johannesen, a third-party bridge construction firm hired at the direction of the governor. These findings reinforce that the administration’s decision to close the bridge on Dec. 11, was absolutely essential to public safety.

The report identified additional, significant structural deficiencies that cannot viably be repaired. After reviewing the report, McNary, Bergeron & Johannesen concurred with the recommendation that the westbound side of the Washington Bridge be replaced. According to a presentation by Jeff Mehle, an engineer with the firm, this decision means that the bridge’s superstructure must be demolished and replaced and that part, if not all, of the bridge’s substructure may also need to be replaced. 

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“Rhode Islanders deserve answers, accountability, and a plan of action to restore normalcy to their daily lives. That is what we will deliver,”  McKee. “It is very important to me that Rhode Islanders have confidence in the findings and the recommendation for a path forward for the Washington Bridge. That is why I made sure that a third-party expert, unaffiliated with any current construction projects in Rhode Island, was able to oversee and review all the information gathered for this report.”

“I am deeply disturbed by the additional structural deficiencies identified by the in-depth review of the bridge,” McKee said. “When we have all the facts, we will hold any responsible parties fully accountable. The day for accountability will come.”