NORTH SMITHFIELD – A massive, $196 million, Route 146 rehabilitation project is well underway, and in the coming months, motorists in northern Rhode Island will see a major change as construction moves to the building of a new flyover bridge over Sayles Hill Road.
According to Rhode Island Department of Transportation spokesman Charles St. Martin, construction of the new bridge, which will eliminate highway travel through a dangerous intersection, will begin this fall.
This month, RI DOT filed three-year temporary easements on 41 North Smithfield properties to accommodate the upcoming work, according to deeds filed with the Town Clerk. St. Martin said that none of the property owners, including businesses in the area, will lose land permanently.
The project, which began last year, includes paving for eight miles of roadway and replacement of multiple bridges. Construction on the existing bridges that carry I-295 over 146 began in spring, and travelers have seen several varying lane closures throughout the work.
St. Martin said that while lanes may shift as construction moves to Sayles Hill Road, RIDOT will maintain the same number of through lanes on 146 as exist currently.
The new bridge will not only relieve congestion on the highway; it will mark a major safety improvement for northern RI commuters. Currently the intersection averages more than 85 crashes per year and holds the only traffic signal on the entire Route 146 highway corridor in Rhode Island. That signal will be removed as the bridge will allow drivers to pass over Sayles Hill Road.
A study of the impact performed by RIDOT notes that currently, travel on 146 from Route 295 to Sayles Hill Road takes around ten minutes. Without improvements, the same distance would take 29 minutes by the year 2055. Once work is complete, the same stretch is expected to take five minutes in 2055.
“The reconstruction of RI146 will transform the entire corridor, improving rideability, functionality, and reliability,” notes a write-up on the project. “Connecting various towns, the project will help facilitate freight, commerce, and recreation for a large and diverse region.”
Construction plans include the building of frontage roads for access to area businesses, and the removal of U-turns where Route 146 meets 146A, which will be replaced with, “a diverging diamond interchange,” according to St. Martin.
Rehabilitation of the full corridor is expected to be complete by 2026.