This 2002 photo shows the northbound lanes of Colonel Rodman Highway (RI 4) at EXIT 7 (RI 402 and RI 403) in East Greenwich. This interchange now serves as the northern terminus of the new Quonset Freeway (RI 403). (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
A HIGHWAY TO THE BEACHES: In 1952, workers began construction of a three-mile-long arterial route that was planned as a bypass of US 1 (Tower Hill Road and Post Road). Its construction was underwritten by a $12 million statewide bond issue approved by the state two years earlier. Opened to traffic in 1954, the four-lane divided highway still exists as a surface-grade arterial between US 1 and the current EXIT 5 (RI 2 and RI 102), except for a bridge over the Amtrak-Northeast Corridor railroad.
During the late 1950's, the Rhode Island Department of Public Works (RIDPW) advocated construction of a "Relocated Route 2" as part of the state's proposed expressway network. No specific plans were made for the highway until 1964, when the RIDPW commissioned a study for the relocation of existing RI 2 (Quaker Lane) between North Kingstown and East Greenwich.
At the time of the "Relocated Route 2" study, traffic bound for Providence (and the then-proposed I-95) was diverted from Colonel Rodman Highway onto RI 2 (Quaker Lane), a four-lane, undivided road that had a high accident rate. Following a public hearing in 1965, the current alignment for what was to become RI 4 - which was to be a four-lane freeway with a wide, grassy median - was decided.
Work began on a 5.4-mile-long section of RI 4 in 1967. This section, which connects I-95 with EXIT 6 (RI 2) near Frenchtown Road, was completed in 1972.
COMPLETING ROUTE 4: The tight budgets and tougher environmental statutes of the 1970's delayed the 1.5-mile-long missing link between EXIT 5 (RI 2-RI 102) and EXIT 6 (RI 2). Environmental studies on the missing link, which at the time was estimated to cost between $15 million and $21 million to build, were initiated in 1977. However, it was not until 1983 that construction costs began work on the final section of RI 4. This final section was completed in late 1988.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the Colonel Rodman Highway carries approximately 60,000 vehicles per day (AADT). The current exit numbering begins at EXIT 5; the remaining exits may have been reserved for an overlapping section with the existing US 1.
CHANGES FOR INTERCHANGES: The RIDOT is building a new EXIT 7 to handle traffic for the Quonset Access Road (RI 403), a new four-lane freeway that will direct traffic from RI 4 to an industrial development on the site of the former Quonset Naval Station. Work began during the spring of 2005 on a new "trumpet" interchange for the connector, which is being built just north of the existing EXIT 7 at Frenchtown Road (RI 402). Additional ramps will be built to connect RI 4 to RI 402. Part of the $170 million Quonset Access Road project, the new EXIT 7 was completed in October 2008.
The state also plans the following changes at the highway's termini:
At the southern end of RI 4 in North Kingstown, the state plans to upgrade the existing arterial south of EXIT 5 (RI 2-RI 102) to a freeway. The RIDOT plans to build overpasses at Oak Hill Road and West Allenton Road, as well as a grade separation between US 1 southbound and RI 4, which has been the site of many deadly accidents during the past half-century. A new EXIT 4 is planned for West Allenton Road. During the late 1990's, the state purchased 17 homes for the expanded RI 4 right-of-way. The $55 million RI 4 upgrade project remains on the state's long-range plans, but its completion has been delayed: it was originally scheduled for completion by 2007.
At the northern end of RI 4 in East Greenwich, there remains no access from northbound RI 4 to southbound I-95, nor is there any access from northbound I-95 to southbound RI 4. The state's long-range plans call for the construction of these "missing movements," but no specific near-term plans have been made for their construction.
ABOUT COLONEL RODMAN: The highway was named after Colonel Issac Peace Rodman, a state legislator who was Brigade Commander of the 9th Union Army Corps during the Civil War. Killed under the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Colonel Rodman was the highest-ranking Rhode Island officer to die in combat during the Civil War.
This 2002 photo shows the northbound Colonel Rodman Highway (RI 4) at EXIT 8 (RI 401) in East Greenwich. The northern terminus of RI 4 at the junction of I-95 lies about one-half mile ahead. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
SOURCES: "Rhode Island Roads," Rhode Island Department of Public Works (1956); "A Highway Program for Rhode Island," Rhode Island Department of Public Works (1959); "Route 2 Relocation," Rhode Island Department of Public Works (1964); "Primary Route 4: Re-Evaluation of Environmental Impact," Rhode Island Department of Transportation (1971); "Route 4 Extension: Draft Environmental Impact and Section 4(f) Statement," Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration (1977); "R.I. Roadway Tests Drivers' Skills, Patience" by Tom Gannon, The Boston Globe (12/04/1988); "State To Begin Process To Buy Houses on Route 4" by Paul Davis, The Providence Journal (7/23/1996); "All Roads Lead to DOT: Route 1-Route 4 Interchange Circled" by Chris Poon, The Providence Journal (2/17/2000); "Planned Upgrades for Deadly Road Will Take Years" by Megan Matteucci, The Providence Journal (11/05/2003); "Construction Ahead: DOT Begins Installing Guardrails, Closing Off Route 1 Turnarounds" by Katie Mulvaney, The Providence Journal (8/06/2004); "Transportation 2025: Long-Range Transportation Plan," Rhode Island Department of Transportation (2004); "Trouble Ahead: Work for Quonset Connector Moves to Route 4" by Arthur Gregg Schulzberger, The Providence Journal (5/04/2005); Steve Alpert; Shawn DeCesari; Michael Kendricks; Gregg A. Mierka; Alexander Svirsky.
RI 4 shield by Barry L. Camp. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.