East Side Railroad Tunnel

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This article is about the disused railroad tunnel. For the similarly named tunnel which is still in use by RIPTA buses, see East Side Trolley Tunnel.
The western portal of the abandoned tunnel, below Benefit Street

The East Side Railroad Tunnel is on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island. It was opened on November 16, 1908, at a cost of $2 million.[1] It runs 5,080 feet (1,550 m), under College Hill, from Gano Street to Benefit Street and is currently abandoned and sealed, but a project has been suggested to reuse it for either rail or bus use.

Coordinates: 41°49′41″N 71°24′30″W / 41.8281°N 71.4083°W / 41.8281; -71.4083



The tunnel was first envisioned in 1903 as a more direct connection to the old Union Station, in the center of Providence. Construction on the tunnel started in May 1906. One crew worked east from the Benefit Street entrance, and one worked west from the Gano Street entrance. The crews met on April 6, 1908, beneath Cooke St, one day earlier than expected, and their alignments were off by only 3/8". A total of nearly 200,000 cubic yards (150,000 m3) of material was excavated. The tunnel was opened on November 15, 1908.

The project also included the Crook Point Bascule Bridge over the Seekonk River.[2] The entire cost of the project, including the bridge, the tunnel, and the approach to Union Station, was $2 million.

The tunnel allowed the closing of the Fox Point railroad station, which had served the city for 73 years.


The western portal of the tunnel in 2005, prior to the construction of the parking lot

The east portal is in Gano Street Park near the intersection of Gano Street and Amy Street. The west portal is adjacent to a parking lot, about 500 feet north of the west portal of the East Side Trolley Tunnel. The closest intersection is North Main Street and Thomas Street.


Originally the tunnel had two tracks, electrified for the heavy electric passenger trains to Bristol, Rhode Island and Fall River, Massachusetts. These trains ran until 1934. Electrification was removed, but passenger trains ran to Bristol only until the 1938 hurricane. After the hurricane only freight trains with the occasional fan trips on chartered passenger trains ran over the track southbound. Passenger trains also ran northward to Narragansett Race Track during the racing season, this ended in the early 1950s. In the 1950s the south track was removed due to dwindling frequency of the freight trains. The ownership of the tunnel was transferred to the state of Rhode Island in 1981. The last train passed through shortly after that.

1993 incident[edit]

On May 1, 1993, a group of students gathered at the western end of the tunnel below Benefit Street, to celebrate Beltain-May Day. The students had fires, wore masks, and beat drums until early in the morning.[3] College security officers tried to break up the party. The students claimed the officers had no jurisdiction in the tunnel. A fight broke out between one of the security officers and a student who refused to stop drumming.

The police were called, and by the time they had arrived the party had grown even larger. The police tried to break up the party with tear gas, but the students responded by throwing rocks and bricks. The police finally broke up the party by forming a riot line, and surrounding the students.

The following day the police claimed that they had found "satanic rituals",[4] and the tunnel was soon covered with corrugated steel, with small doors at either end. These doors were later welded shut.


The tunnel is 5,080 feet (1,550 m) long, 22 feet 3 inches (6.78 m) high above top of rail, and 30 feet (9.1 m) wide. The roof is made of reinforced concrete.

Crook Point Proposal[edit]

A proposal to develop Crook Point, a stretch of shoreline from the Interstate 195 bridge (Washington Bridge) to the Henderson Bridge, was made by Brown University graduate and lawyer Robert Manchester. The proposal includes 400 housing units, 1,400 parking units and green open space. The plan would include a bus or tram running across the bridge and through the tunnel to bring people downtown. There might also be a stop between the two ends of the line at Thayer Street, owing to Brown University's proximity and the shopping on Thayer Street.[5]


  1. ^ "PROVIDENCE TUNNEL OPENED.; Underground Way Only Partly Completed, but Suburban Trains Use It". The New York Times. November 16, 1908. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  2. ^ "Providence. Work Planned for the Railroad Tunnel". Boston Daily Globe. Boston, MA. December 31, 1905. p. 112 – via Newspapers.com.open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ "Providence's Tunnel of Love: It's Not the Trolley Tunnel". The College Hill Independent. November 20, 2008. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  4. ^ "Diamonds & coal Diamonds & coal Diamonds & coal Diamonds and coal". The Brown Daily Herald. October 6, 2004. Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  5. ^ Projo.com | Providence | Local News

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