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East Side Transit Tunnel Project

RIPTA is improving the East Side Transit Tunnel!

The East Side Transit Tunnel is a critical piece of historic transit infrastructure connecting downtown Providence and Kennedy Plaza to the East Side and beyond. The Tunnel was built in 1914 to aid the former trolley lines in climbing College Hill. Many of the buildings adjacent to the Tunnel entrances, as well as the locations of the bus stops and the shelter structure at the North Main Street entrance, have not changed in many years.

Tunnel entrance on North Main Street with historic shelter, July 2022.
Tunnel entrance on North Main Street with shelter. Source: Pre-1948. East Side tunnel, Rhode Island School of Design. Providence Public Library.
Tunnel entrance on Thayer Street, July 2022.
Tunnel entrance and surroundings on Thayer Street, 1938. Source: 1938.Thayer Street – East Side of Tunnel. Providence Public Library.

Today, the East Side Tunnel continues to support an East-West transit corridor across Providence, providing direct bus travel on dedicated lanes. As RIPTA works to further expand and improve service to meet goals set in our Transit Forward RI 2040 plan, our amenities and infrastructure need to be able to support more riders and more buses.

RIPTA riders deserve comfortable, safe, and accessible amenities while waiting for the bus. In this project, RIPTA aims to create conceptual plans to improve the passenger experience on both ends of the Tunnel, including recommendations for bus stop locations and better amenities such as signage, shelters, and lighting – as well as ADA accessibility. RIPTA will also honor the historic nature of the Tunnel and its location in the community, using this project as an opportunity for placemaking. To this end, we have engaged with a variety of historic preservation organizations, neighborhood and business organizations, and the higher educational institutions that exist over and around it.

This planning process is currently underway. RIPTA is working with planning experts at the consulting firm AECOM to help facilitate stakeholder meetings, collect and analyze data at the stops, and develop conceptual designs. During this phase, RIPTA is also evaluating the interior of the Tunnel and drafting plans for repairs on the walls, ceiling, and drainage system.

We expect to complete the planning process by the beginning of November 2022. Once the planning process is completed, RIPTA will lay out a timeline for construction of both interior and exterior Tunnel improvements.

Keep an eye out on this page for updates on this planning process! Questions? Contact Julia Evelyn at

Project Updates

RIPTA held a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, September 20 to gather feedback on draft conceptual designs for possible locations of the bus stops and bus routing at both ends of the tunnel. Couldn’t make the meeting but want to provide comments?  View the draft designs here and take our survey! Please send any feedback to by October 10.

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