Difficulties with new Henderson Bridge roundabout appear overstated

Police report no accidents, say some incidents to be expected as new traffic pattern takes hold

By Mike Rego
Posted 11/29/23

EAST PROVIDENCE — The new roundabout at the reconstructed Henderson Bridge site has certainly created a stir.

But the one thing it hasn't generated is any significant increase in the amount …

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Difficulties with new Henderson Bridge roundabout appear overstated

Police report no accidents, say some incidents to be expected as new traffic pattern takes hold


EAST PROVIDENCE — The new roundabout at the reconstructed Henderson Bridge site has certainly created a stir.

But the one thing it hasn't generated is any significant increase in the amount of incidents since the reconfigured motorway was opened to traffic some two weeks ago.

According to Captain Michael J. Rapoza, Services Division Commander/Public Information Officer for the East Providence Police Department, there had not been "any recent crashes" at the roundabout that now joins Massasoit Avenue with Waterfront Drive and Dexter Road.

The new and considerably smaller bridge span connecting the East Side of Providence with East Providence over the Seekonk River originally was opened to traffic overnight Thursday, Nov. 16, in time for the morning rush on Friday, Nov. 17. Traffic heading in both directions, east and west, was fully opened on Monday, Nov. 20.

Many of the early media reports on the reimagined Henderson Bridge area included stories of confused drivers making wrong turns or entering the roundabout incorrectly. Rapoza said while some instances of the sort have occurred it hasn't caused much angst for the police.

The department, he continued, did post a detail officer on location for the first week, which was paid for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and is "somewhat customary" for a project with the changes at the scale of the new Henderson Bridge.

Rapoza added, "After speaking with a few of the officers that worked the detail, there were a few confused drivers, but nothing out of the ordinary when a new traffic control device is installed."

The bridge opening was formally acknowledged by the state's Congressional delegation as well as local leaders and administrators during an event held Monday, Nov. 27.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Representatives Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. as well as other federal, state and area officials to note replacement of the 54-year-old bridge that has been structurally deficient for nearly 30 years.

“We are so grateful for the efforts of our Congressional Delegation to continue to provide dedicated funding to help us replace Rhode Island’s deficient bridges,” Alviti said. “RIDOT will continue to hold up its end of the bargain, to put these funds to use as quickly as possible and deliver safe and modern transportation infrastructure for all users.”

The $84.4 million bridge replacement project was largely supported by an additional $54.5 million in federal funding for Rhode Island as part of a spending law authored by Reed to assist states with the highest percentage of bridge deck area in poor condition.

“This day has been years in the making and I’m proud to have helped make it happen. The Henderson Bridge is a key connector for Rhode Island’s communities. I want to salute the talented, hardworking men and women who helped build this bridge. They contributed to a better, safer, smoother, more efficient bridge that will serve the community for generations. The new bridge includes dedicated bike and pedestrian paths, which enhances safety, reduces congestion, and improves public health,” said Reed.

Reed is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In 2019, he helped deliver an additional $54.5 million in bridge funding for Rhode Island, which was used for the project. Reed’s program continues to provide tens of millions for bridge repairs around the state each year.

“In addition to building this state-of-the-art bridge, this project also opens new opportunities for smart growth and new land for development. This project is a bridge to possibilities and a brighter future," Reed added.

The bridge also includes a shared-use bike path, completely separated from vehicular traffic, alongside the eastbound side of the bridge. It connects Massasoit Avenue in East Providence directly to East River Street in Providence and is scheduled to be open shortly.

“We’re making once-in-a-generation investments in Rhode Island’s infrastructure and economy,” said Whitehouse. “The Henderson Bridge connects thousands of Rhode Islanders to work, school, and other activities every day. With a major federal boost in large part thanks to Senator Reed, this project is improving the safety and longevity of the Bridge for drivers and pedestrians, and opening up exciting possibilities for development in the East Bay.”

A key element of the redesign, the new Henderson Bridge occupies a reduced structural footprint that is 75 percent smaller than the old bridge. When originally opened in 1969, it was overbuilt as part of a proposed highway expansion project that was never constructed. 

The new design also creates a unique economic development opportunity on the East Providence waterfront, freeing up approximately 25 acres of land. The new bridge represents a 12 percent reduction in the current amount of structurally deficient bridge area statewide. 

"The opening of the new Henderson Bridge makes it safer and easier to get to Providence so that more people can enjoy the incredible things happening in our capital city," said Providence Mayor Brett P. Smiley. 

Added East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, “We are so thankful to our Congressional delegation, especially Senator Reed, for leading the charge on this project. It has been exciting to watch the progress on this project. Not only does the new Red Bridge offer a safer passage for our communities, but it also presents economic opportunities in the development of our growing waterfront district.”

DaSilva referenced a name, "Red Bridge," most closely associated with the span the original Henderson Bridge actually replaced over 50 years ago, the "Red Bridge which crossed the Seekonk River at Massasoit Avenue.

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