After nearly 180 years operating in Rhode Island, Citizens Bank decided to restructure its corporate operation of multiple, dispersed office locations throughout the state, to a central corporate facility accommodating most of its employment force. It solicited proposals from developers in Rhode Island and nearby states to determine the best location to accommodate its corporate goals and the modern demands of the banking business. The financial institution chose to remain in the state with its decision to construct a new corporate campus on an undeveloped parcel of land along the westerly side of I-295 in Johnston.
The 123-acre campus project, with more than 420,000 square feet of office space and a parking garage with 1,263 spaces is on schedule to open later this summer. Located off of Greenville Avenue, the Citizens Bank site will include state of the art office and meeting space, and employee amenities such as dining, fitness, and retail facilities in the building complex surrounded by recreational activity/sports fields and trails for its employees that will also be available for the local community to use. This project created hundreds of construction jobs for local workers, and accommodates approximately 3,000 employees on site.
Roadway design, traffic engineering, and environmental permitting services, completed by BETA Group, Inc. as a part of the design team with DiPrete Engineering, were major components of the project. Highway access to the campus was an immediate concern during the early planning phases, as traffic modeling indicated that increased congestion would occur on I-295 northbound and southbound, as well as on the adjacent local roadway network servicing the site. Working with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), BETA developed preliminary and final design plans for a new interchange at Greenville Avenue, approximately 1,000 feet west of the new campus entrance. Placed between two existing exits on I-295, the interchange will also help alleviate traffic congestion in the vicinity of those exits by providing an additional highway access/egress point along the freeway.
As part of the state and federal permitting process, BETA prepared an Interchange Justification Report (IJR) in accordance with federal regulations. BETA also assisted in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment through the NEPA process. Key elements included minimizing impacts to wetlands, minimizing traffic impacts, and avoiding acquisition of private property. The project design was advanced with RIDOT as a Physical Alteration Permit. BETA also assisted in the local permitting process in the Town of Johnston including applications for a Zone Change and Development Plan Review.
In preparation for the new interchange, the existing exit numbers on I-295 were also updated, as it provided the first opportunity for the RIDOT to switch to the federally mandated mileage-based system, allowing for an easy transition to the additional interchange. The interchange configuration is a standard diamond with new ramps in all four quadrants. The design of the new interchange included ramp layout, widening of Greenville Avenue, design of new retaining walls, stormwater management, traffic signal design, landscape architecture, and construction services.
The permitting, design, and construction met an extremely aggressive schedule where the 100 plus acre wooded site with no highway access was transformed into a 420,000 square foot modern corporate campus with a new interchange within a 24 month period to allow the Citizens facility to be fully operational by the summer of 2018. By providing construction administration services, BETA staff was instrumental in allowing the new interchange to open on schedule.
Throughout the planning and design process, state, local, and Citizen Bank officials reiterated the importance of having the ramps built, noting that the project couldn’t be completed without them. Local residents, businesses, and developers will greatly benefit from the infrastructure enhancements with improved highway access and decreased congestion.