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The East Side Trolley Tunnel is a tunnel in Providence, Rhode Island, originally built for trolley use in 1914, and now used for public transit buses. It runs for 2000 feet (600 meters) under College Hill on Providence's East Side, with its west end at South Main Street and its east end at Thayer Street. Prior to the construction of the Trolley Tunnel, the steepness of the streets climbing College Hill led to construction of the only cable-car system ever to be built in New England.[1][2]

East Side Trolley Tunnel
The eastern entrance to the tunnel on Thayer Street
LocationProvidence, Rhode Island
CoordinatesCoordinates: 41°49′37″N 71°24′30″W / 41.82693°N 71.4082°W / 41.82693; -71.4082
StartSouth Main Street
EndThayer Street
Length2000 feet
Western entrance on North Main Street

The west portal of the tunnel was built directly under the original classroom building of the Rhode Island School of Design, which was built in the mid-1890s and required extensive and complicated construction methods to support the building above as the tunnel was bored.

In 1948 the tracks were removed and the tunnel was paved for use by buses and trackless trolleys. The trackless trolley system in Providence was dismantled in the mid-1950s. The tunnel remains in use today, reserved exclusively for buses—currently the RIPTA routes 35, 40, 42, 49, and 78, and the 92 East. Police and Fire Department vehicles also make use of the tunnel. In addition to providing a gentler grade than the surrounding city streets, the tunnel allows the public-transit vehicles to avoid vehicular traffic and stoplights.

The East Side Trolley Tunnel could be considered the first bus rapid transit operation in North America, considering its exclusive and continuous bus use since 1948.

Despite signs explicitly forbidding them from entering, skateboarding through the tunnel is fairly common. Auto parts salesmen, couriers and other delivery personnel have been known to "shoot the tunnel" to avoid traffic congestion, despite the substantial traffic fine.[citation needed]

It is also rumored that Ted Turner rolled a bowling ball through the tunnel during his time at nearby Brown University, although the rumor was denied by Turner.[3]