Driver Alert: I-95 downtown exit closed temporarily

One of the Rhode Island's busiest highway off-ramps is closing this weekend, and it could affect the Monday morning commute.

It's all part of the $150 million Providence Viaduct rebuilding project. The state Department of Transportation said a couple days of traffic frustration will eventually pay off.

The DOT said 220,000 cars travel on Interstate 95 through Providence every day and that 32,000 of them utilize one of the three ramps on exit 22 to go downtown, to pick up Routes 6 and 10, or to go to Providence Place.

The department is going to widen the lanes on the three ramps as part of the Providence Viaduct improvement project.

"This is the most important transportation link for Providence and the state of Rhode Island. The 800-foot span, the so-called Providence Viaduct, it needs to be replaced now," said DOT Director Michael Lewis.

The work is expected to shut down the exit for three days. Commuters will need to seek alternate routes on the southbound side only starting at 1 a.m. Saturday through 5 a.m. Tuesday.

"We worked with the city. We worked with the abutters to find the time of the year when we would have the least impact. March - traffic volumes are lowest. We don't have a lot of events this weekend. So, we picked this weekend to do it," Lewis said.

And it may bleed into Monday's commute. Workers will be pouring concrete into wooden forms on Saturday morning, but it's expected to take the better part of two-and-a-half days for the concrete to harden enough so traffic can pass safely over it.

"If we are forced to keep it closed on Monday, then it will be manageable. People have enough advance notice that the alternate routes will work for them. There will be a slower commute for southbound traffic, but it's manageable. But, if we can avoid that, then we will," Lewis said.