200514ind Cranston

The sight of a long freight train passing through North Kingstown in the early 20th century may have been welcomed by some but for drivers in that time, it usually meant heavy traffic at the intersection of Ted Rod Road.

Back in the middle of the 1930s, the automobile was becoming pretty common place on the roads of our fair town. What was once, just a decade or so earlier, a rare sight in a horse-and-buggy world was now so prevalent that it was causing unforeseen problems. One of the biggest problems in these parts occurred almost every time a long freight train (like the one in the photograph at right) roared through the at-grade road crossing at the track’s intersection with Ten Rod Road. The automobiles on either side of the closed gates would back up before you knew it. By 1937 traffic jams on the northbound-side were regularly backing up all the way down beyond the Lafayette Mill. The southbound-side would dangerously back up into the rotary at Route 2; this would essentially snarl up traffic, not only on Ten Rod Road, but also on Route 2, Old Baptist Road and Scrabbletown Road. In short it was a mess.

Finally, on May 16, 1938, good sense prevailed with the powers-that-be up in Providence and work was started on an underpass at this heavily-traveled intersection. Thirteen months later, after the relocation or demolition of three general stores and 12 homes, the underpass was opened for business. The project had involved the excavation of a 1000-foot-long, 52-foot-wide, “dip” under the tracks. The rail bridge constructed was 120 feet long and with almost no interruption to auto or train traffic. The total cost was said to be around $200,000. My, how things have changed at RIDOT! The underpass was considered to be a huge success. Rush hour traffic soon after its opening was calculated at 1,000 cars per hour (that’s a lot of Packards, Dodges and Ford Coupes!). It seemed that even more people used the road after the threat of a massive traffic jam was removed. But I’m willing to bet that even with that, people were still heard to mutter under their breath the same thing that they mutter now, some 80 years later—“Now, if they only could do something about that beach traffic!”

The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.

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