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PBN: Costly bridge work looming

6-10-bing

Image from Bing Maps

At an estimated cost of up to $500 million, [the Route 6/Route 10 interchange] is the most expensive unfunded highway construction project on the state’s to-do list and could be one of the toughest to find the resources for.

We need to be thinking beyond replacement.

Asked about the possibility of not rebuilding the interchange or replacing sections of the expressway with surface-level roads, Lewis said elimination was “not workable.”

“It’s just too much a part of the transportation system” to eliminate, Lewis said. “I don’t think there is a transit option that would take care of this need. If [routes] 6 or 10 access was not available, all that traffic would have to go somewhere else and shift to [Interstate 95] and local roads.”

Sigh.

Call San Francisco, ask them about the Embarcadero.

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23 Responses to PBN: Costly bridge work looming

  1. Towne Street January 21, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    Interesting how our highways are now deemed so integral to life as we know it but the neightborhoods bulldozed for their construction were not “too much a part of the transportation system”.

  2. James January 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    “Ask SF about the Embarcadero”

    Or New York about the West Side Highway.

    Someone should ask Jamaica Plain how they’re doing with the orange line and a bike path instead of I-95 down Amory Street. (Or Princeton, NJ). Seems like they’re fine.

    As a point of fact, the 6 & 10 area was always a weird traffic wall. I found that out by looking at old Providence maps. It had the train tracks originally, and no highway, but no buildings were removed (from the north part between Federal Hill and Smith Hill, at least) for the highway.

    I think we need to think outside of our websites for how to get this going. What can we do to bring boots to the ground on highway removal here? So that it’s not just us nerds talking about it?

  3. Towne Street January 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    That’s a great question James. I have some ideas. However, maybe a GC:PVD meet and greet on that very item of generating interest on highway removal and other topics could be enjoyable and beneficial toward finding answers.

  4. Andrew January 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    It took an earthquake to help SF see life without a highway on the embarcadero. That’s probably a pretty apt metaphor in this case too.

  5. Liam January 21, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    You guys are hoping for removal, whereas I’ve always been hoping for a proper full cloverleaf interchange. Being able to shoot right over to 295 from the west end is just so damn handy.

  6. Ryan January 22, 2014 at 6:36 am #

    “As a point of fact, the 6 & 10 area was always a weird traffic wall. I found that out by looking at old Providence maps. It had the train tracks originally, and no highway, but no buildings were removed (from the north part between Federal Hill and Smith Hill, at least) for the highway.”

    Actually, the Northeast Corridor needs a full four tracks between Providence and Warwick if we are ever going to put actual rapid transit on the line here. If that’s the case, I’d expect and want to see at least some of the RI-10 space given back to the train tracks.

    Unfortunately, because nobody was thinking about Providence’s needs (and still very few people are thinking about Providence’s needs even as we start to move forward on the state rail plan – three tracks is ‘sufficient’ for commuter rail – as long as nobody gets any bright ideas like building four more stations to properly serve Providence and Cranston, that is) when they designed the third track, it’s actually positioned in such a way that adding a fourth track now is impossible unless we demolish several overpasses in the vicinity of Olneyville or try and force the rest of the Northeast to live through us ripping out and repositioning the third track.

    “You guys are hoping for removal, whereas I’ve always been hoping for a proper full cloverleaf interchange. Being able to shoot right over to 295 from the west end is just so damn handy.”

    For the low, low cost of just $14.6 billion – Providence, too, can conduct the Big Dig, connecting the 6 expressway directly to the new I-Way in one large overbuilt tunnel!

    Personally, I don’t think being able to shoot right over to 295 from anywhere is worth $14.6 billion – and I’m sure most of the people living in the shadows of 6/10 don’t think it’s worth keeping around either. I’ve driven that road plenty of times – it’s a terrible facility, and since the interstate to Hartford was canceled it has nothing on the other end justifying its existence.

    Even if an interstate to Hartford gets uncancelled and gains enough momentum to actually be constructed, however, I’m fine with it having to end somewhere out west because we already ripped out US-6 here.

  7. Andrew I January 22, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    What the heck is there on 295 that you gotta be shooting to?

  8. Ryan January 22, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Somebody’s never been to the Emerald Square Mall, I see.

    [/sarcasm]

  9. truthspew January 22, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I recall the days when 6/10 was not accessible from I-95. That REALLY sucked.

    So your proposal to eliminate it would cause just as much hassle.

  10. James January 22, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    I might be wrong (this is Rhode Island after all) but I assumed the 295 comment was a sly sarcasm. Good for you, witty commenter!

    Anyone want to canvass the areas near the highway? I’d be up for it after the snowelts. It could really expand our base of support.

  11. James January 22, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    Snow melts. Damn typos.

  12. Andrew I January 22, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Thanks for reinforcing my point.

    $500 million so you can “shoot” to Emerald square and enjoy the free parking and not manage to go the the mall where you can buy all the same stuff 1 mile away.

    $500 million vs “not workable.” It is past time to question this.

  13. Ryan January 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    “I recall the days when 6/10 was not accessible from I-95. That REALLY sucked.

    So your proposal to eliminate it would cause just as much hassle.”

    I can accept mounting a defense of US-6 – I don’t think it’s worth keeping, it’s certainly not worth keeping as the elevated monstrosity in place today, and it’s probably not worth the total $~15 billion to bury it (or place it in a cut) from roughly Atwood Ave in Johnston to Olneyville and extend it through a new tunnel to the I-Way when we don’t even have 10% of that money to talk about better uses of it – but we can agree to disagree about the merits of US-6.

    RI-10, the Huntington Expressway and by definition the 6-10 Connector… has no reason for being. It’s a useless freeway. It serves no logical purpose that can’t be served better by one or more replacement surface roads and most of the eternal traffic headache associated with it is directly caused by its existence in an induced-demand-fueled ontological paradox that ripples outwards and manages to contribute to regular calamity on I-95 as well.

    Eliminating the 6-10 Connector along with all associated ramps (including the toilet bowl interchange with 95) actually improves area road capacity and vehicle throughput assuming the road is replaced with an extension of Memorial Boulevard at least four lanes wide, which – all things considered – is not really that much to ask for. The Memorial Boulevard Extension only needs to carry traffic as far as Broadway before being terminated for this to work. (Of course, the tradeoff for not continuing it further south is that Broadway can’t be closed to traffic outright – on the other hand, Westminster could).

    Making the reasonable assumption that we’re not going to be spending a ludicrous amount of money to tunnel through the West End and conceding to you that maybe US-6 doesn’t go away, the expressway would be realigned through the First Student property to more gently curve over the NEC and then return to surface level as a reconfigured Huntington Avenue.

    The road should be eliminated outright between the existing Huntington Ave and Cranston St as part of a series of interconnected projects to untangle the giant PITA that is RI-10/Huntington/Cranston/Niantic. Niantic Ave should be resigned as Old Niantic Ave and cut back from Cranston St. to the Food Truck Park – instead of dead-ending at the park, it would turn left and intersect with the surface-level downgraded RI-10, which would be signed as Niantic Ave between here and its intersection with RI-2/Reservoir Ave.

    Between Reservoir and Pontiac, RI-10 should also be eliminated entirely. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that realigning Pontiac Ave into the space currently occupied by RI-10 is doable, but we could surely find some other usage for the vacated land.

    Between Reservoir, Pontiac, US-1/Elmwood Ave and RI-12/Park Ave, RI-10 is actually serving an important role as access between Cranston and I-95 – but it can serve this role just as well as a four-lane surface arterial connecting Pontiac to Elmwood, also allowing us to clean up the I-95/RI-10/US-1 interchange. Similarly to the portion of the road between Reservoir and Pontiac, in this context the last leg of RI-10 between Park and Elmwood is entirely useless and can be disposed of outright.

  14. Jef Nickerson January 22, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    I don’t think anyone was suggesting tunneling Route 6 under Federal Hill.

  15. Ryan January 22, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    “I don’t think anyone was suggesting tunneling Route 6 under Federal Hill.”

    Scope creep from trying to place the US-6 expressway in a cut instead of doing the logical thing and downgrading it from an expressway to a surface arterial will lead to tunneling it the rest of the way under Federal Hill, especially if the 6-10 Connector is removed (as it should be).

    This is because that road has to go somewhere – it cannot reach Olneyville and then just stop, for the same reason we can’t just knock over I-95 from city line to city line and call it good.

    In the case of US-6, it could conceivably be resigned onto local streets – which is why the cheapest and most efficient thing to do to it if RI-10 is torn down is to just have it turn into Huntington Avenue and be signed as US-6 on Huntington Avenue to Union Ave to Cranston St to the I-95 Service Roads. The process of doing this is helped along tremendously if the discussion about US-6 through Hartford and Johnston is “How do we re-integrate this into the local street network” and not “How do we preserve this vestigal expressway?”

    Otherwise, the act of saying “let’s put this into an open cut (let’s preserve this freeway)” is the exact same thing as saying “let’s prioritize automobiles over neighborhoods” and at the end of that road is another Big Dig to connect US-6 to the I-Way.

    I don’t want that, and I don’t think anyone else here does either.

  16. James January 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    I’m gonna’ call your bluff on this Ryan. If anything, 6 needs to go more (I mean, let’s be serious, they both do, but…). The closer a road is to an urban core, the more ridiculous it is to have it act as a highway. 6 strangles my neighborhood’s connection to other places on several sides.

    The whole thing functions very poorly for everyone, drivers included.

    If we phase out 6, we can get rid of the clusterfuck at the 95 connection and Dean Street, reconnect a bunch of walkable neighborhoods with low car ownership rates, and make the city whole again.

    10 definitely should go too, but it cuts off less walkable W. Cranston. 6’s gotta’ be #1 on the urban hwy removal triage.

  17. Jef Nickerson January 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    I have no idea what you are talking about, but since RIDOT can’t find a way to fund keeping the existing ramps from falling down, I think we’re a long ways from having to worry about ‘scope creep’ resulting in a $15 billion project.

  18. Ryan January 22, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    “I’m gonna’ call your bluff on this Ryan. If anything, 6 needs to go more (I mean, let’s be serious, they both do, but…). The closer a road is to an urban core, the more ridiculous it is to have it act as a highway. 6 strangles my neighborhood’s connection to other places on several sides.”

    Realistically speaking, I don’t think there’s any way for them not to both go at the same time. They’re too intricately connected.

    “I have no idea what you are talking about, but since RIDOT can’t find a way to fund keeping the existing ramps from falling down, I think we’re a long ways from having to worry about ‘scope creep’ resulting in a $15 billion project.”

    You’d think that, but unfortunately, the operations budget and the capital expenditures budget are two very different budgets.

    Even as beat-up and worn out facilities across the land fall apart because nobody can find the money to fix them, exponentially larger sums of money are readily found or awarded for brand-new facilities, oftentimes exactly replicating the very facility that fell apart from disrepair!

    For whatever reason, it’s much easier to build new things than to fix what we have. I can’t imagine why…

  19. Mark Moreno January 22, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

    I think if the Route 6 freeway were to be removed, I think that Route 6A on Hartford ave should turn into Route 6. It makes sense since Route 6 in Johnston is Hartford ave.

  20. Peter Brassard January 23, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    The right-of-way’s for the Olneyville Viaduct, the 6-10 connector, and the Rt. 6 highway west of Olneyville already exist. There’s no reason why those roads couldn’t simply be transformed into an at-grade urban boulevard that intersects directly with existing city streets. Also at least the northern portion of the Huntington Expressway could be treated in a similar fashion north of Cranston Street. Bikeways, sidewalks, and new development along what’s now generous grassy edges should be part of any plan. There would have to be one single bridge over the NEC roughly at Magnolia Street. There is also no reason why such a boulevard needs to have more than two car travel lanes in each direction.

    There would still be car traffic coming from the west. It would be preferable to have that traffic use the highway right-of-way on a new boulevard rather than diverting that traffic onto city arterials and local streets, like Hartford Avenue and Broadway or even worse through Olneyville Square.

    A new boulevard would circle around the Olneyville Square historic mill district. It could act as a parallel spine to Westminster Street in the center of the square for retail activity and development. Dean Street could be tamed with a boulevard intersecting it at-grade and the enormous 1/4 cloverleaf, as well as the embankment along Spruce Street could integrate new development between Federal Hill and the new boulevard.

    Whether they rebuild a new version of the existing highway or construct a new boulevard, allowances must be reserved for the future construction of a fourth rail track. In Olneyville space for side platforms or a train station should be set aside as well. The readers of this forum should advocate for this when the public process starts for the Olneyville Viaduct redisign.

  21. barry August 7, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    Related to this thread, I learned last month at the Transportation Advisory Committee that the “Transportation Alternatives” program allows funding to go towards replacement of a freeway with a boulevard. So I commented afterwards to the TAC that consideration for that should be given to the 6/10 situation. Someone I know thought the “expressway” east of the Henderson Briege in East Providence might qualify. Of course the TA program is very small and we need it for our bike/ped/safe routes to school projects.
    Those feeling strongly about the Route 6/10 downgrade might want to come to the next RIDOT Roundtable on August 13.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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