The 50-year-old, 2,000-foot-long Henderson Bridge accounts for 12 percent of the entire state’s structurally-deficient bridge area.

EAST PROVIDENCE — The 50-year-old, 2,000-foot-long Henderson Bridge accounts for 12 percent of the entire state’s structurally-deficient bridge area, state officials said on Monday.

But thanks to an additional $54.5 million in investments from the federal government, the span that carries vehicles over the Seekonk River from East Providence into Providence will receive a much-needed face lift and new lease on life, as the structurally-deficient bridge is set to undergo a $70 million renovation.

The four members of Rhode Island’s federal delegation joined Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, and East Providence Mayor Roberto DaSilva to announce the funding that will provide for bridge improvement and repair projects this year.

Monday’s press conference was originally scheduled to be held at an event overlooking the bridge, but inclement weather forced the speaking program indoors to the Waterman Grille in Providence.

The Henderson Bridge and Henderson Expressway were overbuilt as they were originally constructed in the late 1960s as part of an unfinished highway. Approximately 20,000 vehicles cross its six lanes daily. The span has been rated as “structurally-deficient” since 1996, when the Rhode Island Department of Transportation first started keeping records, and as a result, RIDOT has spent $4 million over the last decade on repairs to keep it safe.

The first phase of construction will reduce the bridge to one lane in each direction and will also include 2,500 feet of separated bicycle and pedestrian path infrastructure. The smaller footprint will require less maintenance and will free up almost 33 acres for potential development and recreational use, state officials said. The first phase of the Henderson Bridge replacement is expected to create about 800-job years, and the state will be asked to match 20 percent of the project cost.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, successfully included a $475 million grant program in the fiscal year 2019 spending law that will provide funding to assist states with the highest percentage of bridge deck area in poor condition. Reed estimates that Rhode Island will receive about $54.5 million to help finance its urgently-needed bridge repairs.

“Bridges are about connecting communities, creating opportunities, and bringing people together,” Reed said. “As the top Democrat on the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, I have focused my efforts on addressing the single biggest transportation challenge we face in Rhode Island – our high percentage of structurally bridges.”

“I am pleased to have provided an additional infusion of federal dollars this year to address structurally-deficient bridges and open new doors of economic opportunity and development,” Reed continued. “As a result, Rhode Island will receive a $54.5 million boost to help advance work on bridge upgrades likes this one.”

DaSilva, the first elected mayor in East Providence’s history, said: “We are truly grateful to Sen. Jack Reed for his leadership in being able to secure the funds to bring much needed improvements to the Henderson Bridge, which will create better access to Waterfront Drive and our waterfront as a whole. The transformation of Henderson Bridge not only fortifies the collaboration between two cities, but also allows residents of the state and the region to benefit from what will be a destination spot for generations to come.”

Raimondo added: “Thanks to RhodeWorks, we’re making progress improving our state’s infrastructure, and replacing Henderson Bridge is a major step. I want to thank Senator Reed for securing this funding and being a stalwart champion for Rhode Island in the United States Senate. This critical, long-term investment will transform the area and benefit Rhode Islanders for generations.”

Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette

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