Governor McKee, State Police Promote Safe Travel Across Washington Bridge

Message comes in advance of shift to three westbound lanes of travel 



PROVIDENCE, RI – Today, Governor Dan McKee was joined by Senior Deputy Chief of Staff Joseph Almond, Rhode Island State Police (RISP) Superintendent Colonel Darnell Weaver, and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti to promote safe travel practices in advance of the Saturday’s change to three lanes on the westbound side of the Washington Bridge.

Pointing to an increase in accidents on I-195 in the months immediately following the bridge failure, Governor McKee made clear his goal to reduce the number of accidents occurring on the Washington Bridge. The Governor is encouraging travelers to follow the reduced speed limit of 40 miles an hour, avoid switching lanes, and most importantly, stay alert and off cell phones.

“Our goal is to keep Rhode Islanders safe and get them where they need to go with the least amount of delay possible,” said Governor Dan McKee. “We know that in order to do both of those things successfully, we must all work together to reduce the number of accidents on the Washington Bridge, particularly those caused by distracted driving.”

“It’s tempting when you are sitting in traffic to take out that cell phone to check your texts. But it means you aren’t paying attention to your surroundings, and it means you are more likely to cause an accident that not only affects you, but the many hundreds of cars around you,” the Governor added.

In addition to increased safety signage on the bridge and PSA messaging, RISP has an increased presence on the bridge to help address distracted driving and prevent accidents.

Colonel Weaver spoke about the impact of distracted driving, saying, “Not only does distracted driving increase the likelihood of crashes, but it also reduces reaction times, impairs judgment and compromises situational awareness.”

This expanded effort to reduce accidents on the bridge comes after the state has taken steps to reduce the time to clear accidents on the bridge, so traffic snarls are alleviated sooner. Since the State began staging tow trucks along the route and ramping up its police presence on the bridge, the time to clear on the bridge has dropped from 30 minutes to 21 minutes.

The addition of a third lane on the westbound side of the Washington Bridge should shorten the time it takes to cross the bridge and ease some of the congestion in the surrounding towns. It may also reduce the number of accidents by eliminating some of the choke points where drivers have had to merge from three to two lanes.

This comes a little more than a week after RIDOT added a third lane to the eastbound side of the bridge. RIDOT, along with traffic engineering and structural engineering consultants and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) traffic experts, has certified that the bridge structure is sufficient to carry the extra lanes.

Beginning at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 19, RIDOT will begin with changing the traffic pattern on I-195 East to provide three lanes of through travel on the Washington Bridge. RIDOT will restripe the highway during the evening and overnight hours, with change complete by 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 20. 

The lanes on the westbound side will be reduced in width, just as the lanes on the eastbound side had been reduce in width last week. The left and center lanes will be 10 feet wide, and trucks will be restricted to the far-right lane, which will be 11 feet wide. RIDOT will post signage that trucks must use the far-right lane only.

It is important to note that because additional repaving and subsequent restriping are needed to improve the surface of the bridge, overnight work will be temporarily reducing the number of travel lanes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. for the first two weeks of the latest lane change.

Travelers looking to anticipate their travel time across the bridge can see average travel times for a number of different routes, depending on the time of day, by visiting