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 to the East Side and beyond. The Tunnel was built in 1914 to aid the former trolley lines in climbing College Hill. Tunnel renovations will include new drainage, improved lighting, structural repairs and the renovation of the 110 year old bus shelter to its original splendor.

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.

Project Update

Construction of the tunnel interior is set to start on March 25, 2024 and will be completed by the end of September 2024. The construction will address issues inside the tunnel such as drainage, lighting, and patching cracks in the walls and ceiling. The project will also include restoration of the shelter on North Main Street, honoring the historic nature of the Tunnel.

Beginning, March 25, 2024, the tunnel will be closed to all buses and emergency vehicles during construction. RIPTA Routes 1, 32, 33, 34, 40, and 61x, which typically use the tunnel, will be detoured via Angell and Waterman Streets. Passengers should board at the following locations:

Click here to watch a video on where you should board!

  • North Main Street – use new temporary stops
    • OUTBOUND on the pedestrian island on Washington Place before North Main Street
  • Thayer Street – use alternate existing stops
    • OUTBOUND use the stop on Waterman before Hope
    • INBOUND use the stop on Angell before Hope
  • Thayer Street – use new temporary stops
    • OUTBOUND use the stop at Waterman before Brown
    • INBOUND use the stop on Angell after Brown

Next Steps

At this time, North Main Street’s exterior bi-directional bus lane plan will not be moving forward. However, Thayer Street’s plan will soon start engineering and design. The conceptual design was determined based on the input RIPTA received and in keeping with our project goals of safety, accessibility, and passenger comfort.

Thayer St

Thayer Street Rendering

Thayer St Overhead Map   

RIPTA’s Project Management team is overseeing this project, including the upcoming construction on the tunnel interior as well as full design and construction of the improved bus stops at Thayer Street. This process involves continued contact with our stakeholders and working with the City and RIDOT for approval and permitting.

Further questions can be directed to Director of Communications Cristy Raposo Perry at raposo@ripta.com

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