Pawtucket Avenue water project will impact East Providence school, commuter travel for weeks

RIDOT has oversight of water pipe replacement effort on state-owned road

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/15/23

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Pawtucket Avenue water project will impact East Providence school, commuter travel for weeks

RIDOT has oversight of water pipe replacement effort on state-owned road


EAST PROVIDENCE — A pipe replacement project being overseen by the state will significantly impact traffic for likely at least a month if not more on one of the city's two main arteries.

At the September 12 meeting of the East Providence School Committee, the board was updated on the status of the project on Pawtucket Avenue in front of the high school being orchestrated by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

Superintendent Dr. Sandra Forand and District Director of Facilities Chris Murphy gave the Committee and the public an update on the effort, which started with some minor construction and traffic impact in recent days, but will soon become a considerably larger concern.

Murphy told the body the improvements to Pawtucket Avenue are set to begin in earnest on Monday, Sept. 18. The director said new water lines are being installed. The road is "owned" and maintained by the state. East Providence does not maintain the street in any way.

On Monday, Pawtucket Avenue at East Providence High School and the entrance to the Shoppers Town plaza will become a two-lane road, down from four, with the installation of jersey barriers on each side of the extremely busy street: one headed north and the other south.

Murphy said neither the School Department nor the city had, or will have, much say in how the project is being conducted. RIDOT did, though, acquiesce to the district's request to not start it the week of September 3, the first full week of classes at the high school and around East Providence.

Murphy explained, city and department officials were "pretty much going by the playbook put out by the state." Once the location is excavated and the pipes replaced, the concrete used to encase the area then must be allowed to cure for between 14-18 before final asphalt paving can place, he added.

The congestion that has already and will likely continue to take place for the duration of the project will a trickle down effect on the time busses reach their destinations both in the morning and the afternoon. Most of the district's vehicles begin their days picking up and dropping off high school students, then make the switch to the middle and elementary schools thereafter.

Murphy concluded, "We're planning for the best," adding, however, the "worst case scenario" for travel on Pawtucket Avenue possibly being impacted for upwards of a month or more, which could stretch to the middle or even end of October.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.