Greater City Providence

Why restore Orms Street to four lanes?


Orms Street bridge over Route 95. Image from Bing Maps.

RIDOT began work on the Orms Street bridge over Route 95 over the weekend. The bridge is being partially closed in two parts between now and the spring of 2013. Currently the bridge’s 4-lanes are reduced to two and shifted to the northern side of the bridge while the southern side is demolished and rebuilt. Sometime in early 2012, the traffic will flip to the new section and the northern section will be rebuilt. After that, Orms Street will be restored to four lanes.


If the bridge is able to function for nearly two years with a reduction in lanes, surely it can remain forever like that.

RIDOT describes the project:

The Orms Street Bridge Safety Improvement Project began in early August. It involves full bridge deck replacement and rehabilitation of the remaining structure, installation of new fencing, installation of new roadway joints, sidewalk replacement, and preparing and repainting existing structural steel.

Through a $4.6 million contract with Cardi Corporation, the project also includes roadway improvements to Orms Street, such as resurfacing, resetting of granite curb, installation of signing and pavement markings, and the installation of video detection equipment at the traffic signals. This equipment will replace the current loop detectors and will help to better manage traffic flow.

No bike lanes, no pedestrian safety enhancements, no traffic calming… Just rebuild what was designed by traffic engineers 60 years ago, as if no changes had taken place in the industry in the intervening decades.

Basically, Union Avenue all over again. How long do we have to wait for RIDOT to catch up with modern times, grasp the concept that what works on a highway in the middle of the woods is not what works in an urban environment, where actual human beings are part of the transportation system?

Studies have repeatedly shown that more lanes lead to more traffic. Not more traffic moving faster, just more traffic. If the city will continue to function until 2013 with a 2-lane Orms Street, let’s make that permanent.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Well said. The state is in situation where we’ve built so much infrastructure it can no longer afford to maintain it. It’s time we start building with a focus on moving people, not cars… these are not the same thing. Experience in other cities across the US have found that reducing lanes changes traffic patterns, it doesn’t necessarily mean any particular street becomes more crowded. People adjust. They use other infrastructure or they change the time at which they travel. It’s time for the state’s road system to go on a diet.

  • What can we actually do to get RIDOT to at least consider leaving this a 2 lane bridge, or adding bike/ped space? It seems perfectly logical.. Evaluate whether there is an unacceptable bottleneck at the bridge while the southern portion is being rebuilt and if there isn’t, don’t bother rebuilding the northern portion. Petition?

  • I cross this bridge almost daily and see no reason for 4 lanes of traffic. Traffic IS NOT an issue on this bridge. What ARE huge issues are the lack of good crosswalks, lack of bike lanes, and a complete dearth of helpful signage.

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