Rhode Island Route 4 - History


In 1950, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a $12 million (equivalent to $116 million in 2012) bond issue to fund the construction of a 3-mile (4.8 km), four-lane divided arterial bypass of U.S. Route 1 in Wickford. Construction on the highway began in 1952 and was completed in 1954, at which time the roadway opened as an unnumbered state highway leading from US 1 to Routes 2 and 102 in Wickford.

During the late 1950s, a few years after the completion of the arterial, the Rhode Island Department of Public Works (RIDPW) proposed a relocation of Route 2, which, at the time, was the major thoroughfare in the area. No action was taken until 1964, when the RIDPW introduced a study for the "Relocated Route 2" proposal. During the study, drivers who used the Colonel Rodman Highway arterial and were bound for the state capital of Providence were redirected onto Route 2, an accident-prone, four-lane undivided highway near the modern exit 5. In 1965, the planned Route 2 freeway was given the new number of Route 4, leaving Route 2 on its existing alignment. A public hearing was held by the state of Rhode Island on the proposed freeway, which was to be four lanes and have a divided, grassy median. This proposal was later accepted, and construction began two years later.

Construction of a 5.4-mile (8.7 km) long section of Route 4 from what is now exit 6 in East Greenwich to I-95 in Warwick began in 1967 and was completed in 1972. That year, the 3-mile (4.8 km) arterial south of the modern exit 5 was also designated as part of Route 4. The divided highway remains largely intact to this date as the stretch of Route 4 from US 1 to Routes 2 and 102 at exit 5; the only piece of the arterial that has been significantly altered is the construction of a bridge over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line. By the early 1970s, Route 4 was complete north of exit 6 and south of what would become exit 5, but there was a still a missing piece in the highway between the two exits. In the 1970s, the state of Rhode Island faced several budget problems and environmental concerns, both of which delayed the construction of the missing link for nearly eleven years. Environmental studies on the missing link began in 1977, and the state estimated that the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) long section of freeway would cost $15–21 million (equivalent to $58–81 million in 2012) to construct.

In 1983, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) began construction of the new segment of Route 4 between exits 5 and 6. The project, which ultimately went over budget at $24 million (equivalent to $51 million in 2012)), was financed from a $63 million federal grant. In 1986, during excavation for the new right-of-way, the Department of Transportation found archeological items from the Narragansett Indians dating from about 2,000 to 4,500 years prior. Although the findings were not centralized in the area, this caused delays for the extension of the freeway. On August 6, 1988, RIODT completed construction and performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new highway.

In January 1990, two police cruisers were severely damaged during a chase on Route 4. A driver was speeding in the southbound lanes of Route 4 near exit 7; when the driver exited at Route 402 (Frenchtown Road), two police officers got into serious accidents in their attempts to pursue the vehicle. After the crashes, the American Civil Liberties Union restarted efforts to amend police chase policy and avoid further crash-related injuries for officers in the line of duty.

In 2000, construction began on the Quonset Freeway, a relocated Route 403 that serves the Quonset Business Park from Route 4. The project included the reconstruction and reworking of exit 7 off Route 4, which was a southbound-only exit serving both Route 403 and Route 402 when constructed. The exit was converted into a trumpet interchange with new ramps between Route 4, Route 403 and Route 402 and was completed in December 2008, one year ahead of schedule. The project included the construction of a new northbound exit 7 serving Route 403 east.

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