Three major changes are coming to Route 37 in the coming years, according to Department of Transportation spokesperson Charles St. Martin. The bridges will be reconstructed, parts of the highway will be widened, and a third lane will be added to the Pontiac Avenue exit off of Route 37 West.
The most expensive project – and longest one to accomplish – will be the reconstruction of the bridges that hold up the highway, which St. Martin said would cost $34 million for the east portion of the project – from the entrance off Post Road in Warwick until it crosses Route 2. This part of the project is set to begin in 2019. The western portion of Route 37 would cost $42 million.
St. Martin said the bulk of funding would come from a federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant of $25 million. The rest would be paid by state funds.
He said that there are 15 bridges just along the eastern portion of Route 37, six of which are considered “structurally deficient.” He added that all of them are 50 years or older and are in some need of rehab or preservation in the coming years.
Ken Mason, Cranston Director of Public Works, expressed support for the project because saying the Route 37 bridges are in bad shape.
“The bridge over Pontiac is in dire need of repairs and/or replacement, same at Reservoir,” Mason said. “There have been some temporary repairs.”
Mason said that there’s even been a joke about the bridges around Cranston, saying that people have likened them to “Lincoln Logs.”
Another major project St. Martin hopes will come to fruition is the widening of the highway between the entrance onto Route 37 East from 95 South up until the Pontiac Avenue exit.
“If you’re coming onto Route 37 from 95 South you have a very short distance to move over,” St. Martin said. “We would basically widen the highway in that area. You’re improving the capacity of the road at those points to cut down on the weaving and congestion.”
This part of the project is in an effort to alleviate traffic jams on Route 37, especially near the Pontiac Avenue exit.
The third part of the project, which would be creating a third lane on the off-ramp from 37 East to Pontiac, would try to reach that same goal.
He said that the added lane would be an additional “right-only” lane turning onto Pontiac and would hopefully alleviate some of the backups that occur on that exit currently.
On this part of the project, Mason said that this third lane wouldn’t help all that much with the traffic on Pontiac and into Sockanosset Crossroads, however, and he’d like the plan to also widen Pontiac Avenue in order to give more space in that crowded intersection, which is also owned and operated by the DOT.
Other than that, Mason said that the city has sent their letter of support for the project. He said that the city wouldn’t be involved, financially or otherwise, “as of this moment.”
This project, especially in regards to cutting down the traffic coming off 37 onto Pontiac, goes hand-in-hand with the task ahead of the city and developers around that area to deal with increased traffic resulting from increased development.
That’s why St. Martin also said that, as part of this plan, an access road beginning at the right of the on-ramp to Route 37 West from Pontiac (next to the Shell station) and leading to the Fountains at Chapel View site would be built by the Carpionato Group. This access road would potentially alleviate traffic getting to the site when, or if, a Costco, as well as other commercial/residential developments, are built.
When asked about the access road, Kelly Coates, president of Carpionato Group did not have a comment.