NORTH SMITHFIELD – It’s been a year and a half since the state’s congressional delegation announced that Rhode Island had secured $65 million in federal funds for the reconstruction of Route 146.
According to press releases circulated in June of 2020, a project to replace three bridges, reconfigure the Sayles Hill Road intersection and repave eight miles of roadway would begin in late 2021.
And while the Rhode Island Department of Transportation hasn’t mobilized the paving crews just yet, it seems preparation for the project is finally underway.
RIDOT secured a 189-square-foot permanent aerial easement over a town-owned property to accommodate overhead power lines for the project this week. The property, which has 250 feet of frontage, is on the northbound side of the highway, just two lots away from the Sayles Hill Road intersection.
“RIDOT is currently in the process of performing a design/build project for the reconstruction of Route 146 from I-95 to the Massachusetts state line,” notes a resolution granting the easement passed unanimously by the North Smithfield Town Council this week.
The state agency paid the town $1 for the rights.
“This easement provides for the placement of the arms of the relocated utility poles and overhead wires that extend over private property together with sufficient air space necessary for safety clearances,” notes an exhibit from RIDOT.
“As we’re well aware the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is going to alleviate, probably do away with all of the problems at Sayles Hill Road and 146,” Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski said at the Town Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 20.
RIDOT received a $65 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Grant for the project, estimated to cost a total of $150 million. According to a release from 2020, “Funding may also be used to install a bus-on-shoulder lane along the southern limits of Route 146 into Providence, new drainage features, modern median barriers to replace old guardrails and broadband improvements.
More than 171,000 vehicles travel Route 146 between Providence and Worcester, Mass. each day, and the road has long had poor pavement conditions. The busy North Smithfield intersection is considered particularly dated leading to long traffic delays, as well as occasional car accidents.
“I’d pay them $1 to get the job done,” Zwolenski joked.
The administrator said he’s seen RIDOT’s design plans for the upcoming highway improvements.
“It’s not for public release yet because, as you know, anything can change,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, I would say that it’s well thought out. It’s going to allow traffic to flow in all directions.”
The effort marks one of the first major projects for Town Planner Mark Carruolo, who took the job in November.
“You’re going to find that he is very thorough and well versed,” Zwolenski said of the planner. “I’m impressed so far.”
The administrator said RIDOT is expected to release more information this spring.
“It is progressing,” he said of the project.