Route 146 project will eliminate light, improve safety

Route 146 project will eliminate light, improve safety

The removal of the Sayles Hill Road light as part of a $150 million improvement project is expected to improve safety and relieve traffic on Route 146. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A contingent of local and state leaders gathered at the Anchor Nissan dealership at the intersection of Route 146 and Sayles Hill Road last Wednesday, Sept. 2, to officially kick off a $150 million improvement project on Route 146.

The project is made possible by a $65 million federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant awarded in June. It’s the largest single federal grant the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has ever received.

“Here we are signing a project to reconstruct 146, a road that’s been a thorn in our side, for all of our sides, for decades,” said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr.

The highlight of the project, expected to begin construction in spring 2022, is a reconfiguration of the Sayles Hill Road intersection to remove the traffic light on Route 146. The intersection is the site of about 85 crashes per year, including one this past June that killed an Attleboro, Mass., resident as he attempted to cross Route 146 at night.

North Smithfield Town Administrator Gary Ezovski said the project is personal for those who live and work in the northern part of the state.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to be here to witness this and say thank you to each of you,” he said.

Though the atmosphere was mostly celebratory, Ezovski acknowledged that recognition of the extent of the problem, and an effort to fix it, has been long in coming for local residents. As a child, he said, he was involved in a car accident at the intersection. Later, as an environmental consultant, he often responded to crashes there and learned the wife of a childhood friend had died there.

“Over my four years here in office, I’ve tried to schedule meetings so that anyone coming from Providence would hit the traffic,” he said.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, also participated in the event. Reed, who serves on the Senate appropriations committee, acknowledged the age of the road and its naming for Lincoln native Eddie Dowling.

“This federal investment will allow RIDOT to go simply beyond fixing this road. It will make significant safety improvements,” he said.

In addition to creating a bridge to carry Route 146 over Sayles Hill Road, the project involves replacing two bridges along the Route 146 corridor and repaving the road from Route 295 to the state line.

State officials also plan to create bus-on-shoulder accommodations at the Providence end of Route 146 to make for easier public transit.

Whitehouse, who drafted the legislation creating the INFRA program in 2015, said all you have to do is drive 146 to know it needs repair.

“So we’re all really excited to have this turned into a highway that we can be proud of,” he said.

The construction is expected to take about three years and be complete by the end of 2025. Bob Benoit, co-owner of Anchor Auto Group, said the timeline will create some pains for the dealership, but they’re glad the RIDOT has involved them in the design process.

“Obviously, it’s well needed,” he said. “I think it’s fortunate they’ve reached out to us and let us have a seat on the table to make sure all interests have been addressed.”

The $65 million grant is about two-thirds of what the RIDOT requested in its application back in February. Another $30 million of the project cost is expected to come from truck toll revenue.