December 14, 2023

RI Delegation Seeks Federal Aid to Assist with Washington Bridge Closure

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of the emergency closure of the Washington Bridge, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Seth Magaziner and Gabe Amo today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) urging the federal government to free up existing formula funding that could accelerate completion of the emergency work on the Washington Bridge.  The Congressional delegation is also urging technical assistance from the feds to optimize work on faster repairs, lane shifts, detour design, shuttle busses, and more.  They also requested a meeting with Secretary Buttigieg and urged U.S. DOT to expedite any approvals requested by the state.

Today, Reed, Whitehouse, Magaziner, and Amo issued the following joint statement:

“Our offices are working together and closely monitoring this situation in coordination with federal, state, and local officials. We stand ready to help the state, support the community, and assist all those impacted by this ongoing emergency bridge closure.

“Public safety is paramount. There are lots of moving parts here and we will ensure the federal government does its part to assist Rhode Island with getting this bridge repaired and reopened. 

“Right now our efforts are focused on working with the U.S. Department of Transportation. In the days and weeks ahead, we anticipate working with additional federal agencies, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and others, on varying impacts from this emergency bridge closure.

“We will continue to deliver historic investments to replace, repair, upgrade, and maintain our bridge infrastructure.”

Text of their letter to Secretary Buttigieg (and cc:ed to President Biden) follows:

December 12, 2023

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg


U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

We are writing for your immediate assistance and focus on a Rhode Island transportation emergency.

As we alerted your department yesterday, the westbound span of the Washington Bridge, which carries Interstate 195 over the Seekonk River between Providence and East Providence, Rhode Island was closed immediately after the discovery of critical failure of key components of the bridge. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has declared this a Type 1 emergency as it initiates plans to rebuild this section of the bridge, a process that could take several months.

With nearly 100,000 vehicle crossings per day, the Washington Bridge is a vital commuter and freight transportation link for the state and the region. The Washington Bridge is the primary and fastest route for Rhode Islanders in the eastern part of our state to access the Providence hospitals and the area’s only Level 1 trauma center.

To ensure that the bridge can safely reopen as quickly as possible, we urge you to expedite any approvals requested by RIDOT. We also ask that you provide technical assistance to the state where applicable to optimize work on repairs, lane shifts, detour design, shuttle busses, and other items as necessary.

As you know, Congress has made significant investments in improving the safety of our bridges – including through the Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, which prioritizes funding for states like Rhode Island, that have a high percentage of bridges in poor condition. Indeed, Rhode Island received the most funding of any state under this program every year since its inception. However, in view of this emergency, we ask you make available any additional existing federal formula fund that could expedite the completion of this work.

We also request that the Federal Highway Administration and USDOT Inspector General evaluate the adequacy of bridge inspections in the state and work with RIDOT to identify obsolete design features on other bridges that could lead to a critical failure. Finally, we would also request a meeting with you about this important need for our state.

Thank you for your attention to this important request.



Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), 202-224-2921

James Kwon (Magaziner), 202-951-0315

Matt Rauschenbach (Amo), 202-225-4911

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921