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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.

Project Updates

This conceptual planning process is now complete. Thank you for your input! RIPTA hosted eight stakeholder meetings, one public meeting, and presented at three neighborhood group meetings. We received comments via email and social media and had over 100 responses to our online survey. We also spoke internally with our bus operators, supervisors, and service planners to understand the specific operability concerns and opportunities of the nine different designs.

Based on the input we received and in keeping with our project goals of safety, accessibility, and passenger comfort, RIPTA has selected a preferred design for each tunnel entrance.

Thayer St

Thayer Street Rendering

Thayer St Overhead Map   

N Main St

Main St Rendering

Main St  Overhead

RIPTA’s Project Management team will oversee the next steps of this project, including full design and construction. This process will involve continued contact with our stakeholders and working with the City and RIDOT for approval and permitting.

RIPTA’s estimated timeline for full design of this project is Fall 2023, and construction would take place during Summer 2024.

Further questions can be directed to Julia Evelyn at

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