NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A connector from Route 4 to Interstate 95 South in Quonset is one step closer to reality as Sen. Jack Reed’s (D-RI) office announced Friday that two new federal grants totaling a combined $25.3 million were awarded to Rhode Island by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to improve traffic flow in and around Quonset Business Park and the “Cranston Canyon” stretch of Route 37.
“This federal funding will help improve traffic and safety conditions,” Reed said in the press release. “The result will be a safer, more efficient interchange along these well-traveled commercial and freight corridors. I appreciate Secretary Chao’s support for these important projects. I will continue working to ensure the federal government invests in upgrading Rhode Island’s infrastructure.”
A $4 million BUILD grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will be used to assist the Rhode Island Department of Transportation in studying the construction of full freeway-to-freeway access between I-95 and Route 4 in Quonset, as well as from the Quonset Business Park to Route 4 via Route 403. Direct access between the highways currently only goes from I-95 North to Route 4 with no direct route from Route 4 to I-95 South, a “missing move” RIDOT plans to spend $5 million to address as it slows down the direct transportation coming out of the Quonset Business Park and Port of Davisville, which have increasingly grown in value to the economy of Rhode Island as a whole over the past decade.
“World class infrastructure is the key to Quonset’s success,” Quonset Development Corporation CEO Steve King said. “Improved access will enhance the Business Park and make the remaining development opportunities here even more marketable. We appreciate and value the support of Sen. Reed and all our partners in government at the state, local and federal level. Quonset’s success is a result of everyone working together as a team, and is a window into what is possible in Rhode Island.”
The larger grant, totaling approximately $21,329,338, will be used to rebuild six bridge structures in Cranston as well as add a third lane to I-295, allowing more room for commuters and commercial vehicles through the busy stretch of highway. The project, which RIDOT estimated will cost around $85 million, is expected to repair 70,000 square feet of structurally deficient bridge deck and work to increase safety along that stretch.
The new grant comes on top of a previous $20 million federal grant awarded in 2017 for the purpose of paying for the Route 37 Bridge and Roadway Improvement Project, which is currently underway.
No timetable was given yet for the projects, but the grants came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) program, previously known as the TIGER program, which focuses on funding projects that promote economic development and improve infrastructure, the latter an important note as the state consistently ranks last in national infrastructure surveys, something Gov. Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks initiative is working to address.
Quonset Business Park is the largest business park in the state and the Port of Davisville is one of the busiest auto import centers in the country. A 2019 study found that the two have supported $4.3 billion in economic output in the state of Rhode Island.