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Restored streets to connect Jewelry District to downtown

Metro Editor
Thursday, February 11, 2010

As final demolition begins on the old Interstate 195, design plans for city streets are nearing completion.

The old highway will be completely removed by 2011, at which point streets formerly connecting the Jewelry District to downtown will be restored, said Lambri Zerva, design project manager for the Iway relocation project at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

Restored roads will include Chestnut, Richmond, Ship and Eddy streets, according to Department of Transportation planning documents. The plans are meant to emphasize a sense of continuity between “the old and the new,” Zerva said.

The old I-195 arched just north of Providence’s Jewelry District, creating a physical barrier between the district and downtown. City, state and University officials have expressed hope that removal of the highway — combined with the growth of Brown’s Medical School facilities — will inspire renewed economic development in the Jewelry District.

“The streets are going to provide the infrastructure for those developments to happen,” Zerva said.

But roadwork will not include infrastructure, such as in-road tracks, for Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority’s proposed streetcar system, which Zerva said remains in “very conceptual” stages.

The narrow span of both Richmond and Ship streets — the future home of the Alpert Medical School — would be restrictive to the installation of streetcar lines, he said. But he added that the planned width of Eddy Street, a “major north-south artery” through the district, allows for potential streetcars in the future.

The former I-195 bridge across the Providence River will be replaced by a pedestrian and bike bridge, Zerva said. Construction on the new bridge will begin “sometime after 2011,” he said.

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