Washington Bridge Closure Impacts Rhode Island Businesses

The Washington Bridge's westbound closure in Rhode Island has caused revenue loss and permanent shutdowns for local businesses, including Salted Slate and Minerva's Pizza. The state is seeking federal funding to support affected businesses and has proposed a $1.3 million budget to aid them.

Nitish Verma
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Washington Bridge Closure Impacts Rhode Island Businesses

Washington Bridge Closure Impacts Rhode Island Businesses

The closure of the westbound portion of the Washington Bridge in Rhode Island has severely impacted local businesses, leading to revenue loss, traffic disruptions, and even permanent shutdowns for some establishments. Salted Slate, a popular farm-to-table restaurant on Wayland Avenue in Providence, and Minerva's Pizza, a decades-old pizzeria on South Angelo Street, are among the latest, bridge, failure, top, restaurant casualties of the bridge closure that began in August 2022.

Why this matters: The Washington Bridge closure highlights the critical need for infrastructure investment and effective crisis management to prevent economic downturns in local communities. As the US grapples with aging infrastructure, stories like this underscore the importance of proactive planning and timely support for affected businesses and residents.

Ben Lloyd, owner and chef of Salted Slate, stated, "They just disappeared," referring to the significant loss of customers who would typically visit from the East Bay area via the Washington or Henderson Bridges. Lloyd reported a roughly 20% decline in business following the bridge closure, ultimately leading to the decision to close the restaurant at the end of the month.

Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee has defended RIDOT Director Peter Alviti amid criticism of the delayed response to support affected businesses. McKee has proposed a $1.3 million budget to aid businesses impacted by the bridge closure and is pursuing a federal mega grant to fund the bridge, costs, could, double. The governor has refused to estimate the total cost of the bridge replacement, which is projected to be between $250 million and $300 million.

The Washington Bridge westbound closure, with a proposed completion date of August 2026, has resulted in a 33% decrease in I-195 bridge traffic. RIDOT data shows a significant increase in crashes on the bridge since the westbound closure. Director Alviti has stated that the agency is going through "trying times" and has explained the next steps for the replacement of the westbound portion, including the possibility of a complete rebuild.

In response to the economic impact on local businesses, Mayor Bob DaSilva and the East Providence City Council have approved an expanded dining ordinance. The ordinance allows restaurants to add up to 20 outdoor seats for dining between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. without requiring additional parking spaces. Restaurants must set up vehicle crash protections and submit their plans for review by city departments.

The McKee Administration is actively seeking federal support, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touring the beleaguered bridge. The state is seeking $20 million in federal funding to support affected businesses. A forensic analysis of the Washington Bridge is expected to be released next week, providing further insight into the bridge's condition and the necessary repairs.

Key Takeaways

  • Washington Bridge closure in RI causes revenue loss and shutdowns for local businesses.
  • Salted Slate and Minerva's Pizza are latest casualties, citing 20% decline in business.
  • RI Governor proposes $1.3M budget to aid affected businesses, seeks federal funding.
  • Bridge closure causes 33% decrease in I-195 traffic, increase in crashes.
  • East Providence expands outdoor dining ordinance to support local restaurants.