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Business owners react to I-195 Washington Bridge demolition announcement

Demolition, reconstruction projected to finish March 2026

<p>The demolition and reconstruction of the Washington Bridge is predicted to take between 18 and 24 months to be completed. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons</p>

The demolition and reconstruction of the Washington Bridge is predicted to take between 18 and 24 months to be completed. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On March 14, Gov. Dan McKee announced that the I-195 Washington Bridge, which was partially shut down due to structural concerns last December, will now be demolished and rebuilt entirely. The bridge allows drivers coming from Providence to travel to the east side of Providence and access Seekonk, Massachusetts. 

According to a report released that same day by McNary, Bergeron & Johannesen — a third-party construction firm hired by McKee to inspect the bridge — closing the bridge was “the right and responsible decision.” The report further recommended that the bridge be replaced. 

Following its closure in December, the bridge’s infrastructure began to be inspected. On Jan. 23, Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti said that the Washington Bridge may need to be torn down and completely rebuilt. But at that time, updates surrounding the bridge’s condition were still pending as engineering firms continued their investigations. 

According to the March 14 report, it will take between 18 and 24 months to completely demolish and reconstruct the bridge. The process is set to begin this summer, with a projected completion for March 2026.


Rhode Island business owners, who have experienced economic loss due to the bridge’s closure, have expressed doubt about what lies ahead.  The congestion, traffic and delays caused by the partial closure have hurt businesses on the east side of Providence that rely on patrons traveling across the bridge from Providence and further west. 

“We were up 200% (in revenue) coming out of (the COVID-19 pandemic). Everything was going really well and we were on track to have our largest December ever,” said Jessica Leach, owner of Opt Eyewear Boutique in Wayland Square. On “Dec. 11, all of a sudden, everything came to a screeching halt.” 

Asher Schofield, co-owner of souvenir shop Frog & Toad, mentioned that the number of customers at the store’s east side location had “definitely reduced” after the bridge’s closure when he spoke with The Herald in January.

Now, with the bridge’s confirmed demolition, Schofield is unsure of what comes next.

“It’s just a bit of a mystery,” he said in a March interview with The Herald. “It’s really hard to find the metrics to gauge what will happen (with revenue) since January and February are already a slower time of year for retail.”

“All of my evidence is more anecdotal and experiential — it hasn’t been good business for anybody,” Schofield added. 

In December 2023, the U.S. Small Business Administration encouraged businesses in Providence, Bristol and Kent counties to apply for low-interest, long-term Economic Injury Disaster Loans to alleviate the economic impact caused by the bridge’s closure. 

Nine hundred and fifty-one businesses applied and $586,200 in loans were approved as of March 7 for businesses in those counties, as well as businesses in Bristol County, Massachusetts and Windham County, Connecticut, the Rhode Island Current reported

As of Feb. 29, the SBA had approved 158 applications, which made up 51% of all loan applications at the time.

“SBA is offering low-interest, long-term loans. I’ve already got those. I still don’t really want any more of them,” Schofield said. 


Leach and Schofield expressed the need for increased support from elected officials. 

“We have heard nothing from our local representatives in this area,” said Leach. “No one’s come out. Not one person.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited Rhode Island and toured the Washington Bridge with McKee and Alviti to address the timeline and fiscal costs associated with reconstruction. 

McKee estimated that repairing the bridge would cost $250 million to $300 million, The Providence Journal reported. The funding for the bridge would involve a mix of federal and state funds. 

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“Our objective here is not to take funding away from Rhode Island,” Buttigieg said to reporters on the bridge, “it is to make sure Rhode Island is getting the funding that it needs to meet this acute issue and all of the other projects that still need to be done.”

Schofield expressed skepticism of the state's promises. But Rhode Islanders “are scrappy, and we’re survivors and we help out our neighbors,” he said.

Sanai Rashid

Sanai Rashid was raised in Brooklyn and now lives in Long Island, New York. As an English and History concentrator, she is always looking for a way to amplify stories and histories previously unheard. When she is not writing, you can find her trying new pizza places in Providence or buying another whale stuffed animal.

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