City of Providence, RI

06/14/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/14/2024 13:32

Mayor Smiley, Councilman Goncalves, Providence Planning Department Announce New Urban Trail for South Water Street

Mayor Brett P. Smiley, Councilman John Goncalves, and the Providence Department of Planning and Development today announced plans for the development of a new two-lane urban trail along South Water Street, designed to enhance safety for cyclists and improve traffic flow in the area. This project will improve a vital connection to the East Bay Bike Path, improve the current bike lane infrastructure, and provide an additional road lane for vehicular traffic, alleviating congestion on this important thoroughfare. The new urban trail will leverage existing federal funding for construction and design.

"This new urban trail along South Water Street is a significant step forward in our commitment to making Providence a safer, more connected and accessible city," said Mayor Brett Smiley. "Through a robust and responsive community outreach and engagement process, we gathered and incorporated feedback from residents, businesses, advocates and experts to develop an enhanced concept that addresses flaws in the existing design, providing better safety for pedestrians and cyclists while also improving stormwater management and capacity on this critical roadway."

The new urban trail will feature:

  • Protected, Separate Space for Cyclists: The dedicated two-lane bike path will be separated from pedestrians and vehicular traffic and relocated to sidewalk level, ensuring a safe and enjoyable riding experience.
  • Safer Crosswalks and Enhanced Accessibility: The addition of raised crosswalks will improve safety by making pedestrians more visible to drivers, encouraging vehicles to slow down, and reducing accident risk. The new raised crosswalks will also enhance accessibility for people using mobility aids and improve nighttime visibility with better lighting and reflective materials. Additionally, the raised crosswalks will aid in stormwater management, ensuring safer surfaces for crossing.
  • Enhanced Sustainability: Green infrastructure will be added intermittently between the parking lane and the two-lane bike path to improve stormwater collection along the corridor, which was not included in the original design concept from 2022.
  • Connectivity to the East Bay Bike Path: Cyclists and pedestrians will have a more user-friendly connection to the popular East Bay Bike Path, expanding their travel options and promoting sustainable transportation.
  • Reduced Traffic Congestion: The project restores a second lane for vehicular traffic on South Water Street and a larger parking lane. This enhancement will ease the traffic congestion from the original flawed design and exacerbated by the closure of the Washington Bridge, improving overall traffic flow in the area.
  • Continuity for Cyclists: Under the new project plans, the existing bike lanes along South Water Street will remain intact until the new urban bike trail is constructed.

"Since March, I have stood alongside Fox Point residents and bike advocates, carrying their voices directly to the Mayor," said Councilman John Goncalves. "We advocated against the removal of the South Water Street bike lane and while we did not get everything we wanted, what we will get is a world-class bike lane that is raised to the sidewalk level, raised crosswalks to prevent speeding that would undermine quality of life, and stormwater management to alleviate flooding. Most importantly, the Mayor agreed we will not have a single day without a bike lane. This is a win for our neighbors, bike advocates, and for those who care about quality of life and pedestrian safety."

The Smiley Administration has sought to make key improvements along South Water Street to correct existing design flaws in the current bike lane infrastructure. Plans for these improvements were accelerated due to the traffic impacts of the Washington Bridge closure, and in April 2024, the City announced a comprehensive impact mitigation planto alleviate the burden on our neighbors and local businesses. Incorporating feedback from the Providence City Council and community members, and in consideration of upcoming plans for South Water Street included in the latest Safe Streets for All Federal Funding award, the City revised its initial construction timeline and schedule, and developed a redesign to address quality of life concerns from neighborhood residents and safe streets activists. The adjustments included in the latest plan improve traffic flow, enhance pedestrian safety, establish an urban trail along South Water Street, and ensure that bike lanes will not be removed prior to construction of the new urban trail. All other mitigation plans are completed or underway.

"By leveraging existing federal funding, our redesign along South Water Street will create an improved user experience along a heavily traveled portion of the riverfront corridor, separating uses and substantially improving traffic flow for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers," said Joe Mulligan, Director of Planning and Development.

The project is funded by a $4.4 million federal Safe Streets for All grant that has been earmarked for South Water Street since 2023. The City has selected engineering firms to assist with design and engineering for all Safe Streets for All projects. Construction on this portion of the urban trail bike lane is anticipated to commence in spring of 2025. During construction, the City will work to minimize disruptions and ensure the smooth continuation of daily activities for residents and businesses along South Water Street. The current configuration will remain in place until construction kicks off next year.

"We are grateful for everyone who has supported safe infrastructure on South Water Street championed by Councilman Goncalves, and thank Mayor Smiley for listening to the concerns and pausing the bike lane removal for further study and engagement," said Liza Burkin, lead organizer of the Providence Streets Coalition. "While we believe that restoring a second driving lane will benefit neither residents nor commuters, we will continue to work with the administration to advocate for a balanced and safe plan for all road users."

"I want to thank Mayor Smiley and Councilman Goncalves for their attention to the concerns raised by Fox Point residents about the planned removal of the South Water Street bike lane," said Fox Point resident Naz Firoz. "I hope that this area can remain safe and welcoming to pedestrians for many years to come, and I look forward to continuing to engage with the Mayor and the Councilman as plans move forward."