Downtown parks, pedestrian bridge on track after setbacks

News
Former I-195 land_219818

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Plans to build two public parks and a pedestrian bridge in downtown Providence have resumed now that a proposal for a waterfront baseball stadium has fallen through.

State and city officials say they’re refocusing on developing the land, which was cleared after Interstate 195 was relocated. The project, which includes building a pedestrian bridge across the Providence River with a park on each side, has faced several setbacks.

Construction of the bridge was supposed to start in the spring but was delayed in March because of technical problems, and stalled again in June because of funding, according to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, which is building the parks and bridge.

At the same time, the owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox were pitching their idea for a ballpark on the west side of the river. The Triple-A team’s proposal died last month after state officials announced the land had too many obstacles. There was also strenuous objection from stadium naysayers, many of whom were fiercely dedicated to the park’s development.

Now, construction of the bridge could begin as soon as next summer, said RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin. The design for the bridge is about 90 percent complete, while the design for the parks is about 30 percent finished.

“The design of the parks and bridge were paused as more discussions were taking place about proposals for the I-195 site,” St. Martin said.

The parks project could be made ready for advertisement for bid within the next 10 months, he said.

The cost to complete both the parks and the bridge is $17 million, and RIDOT has the funds available through the sale of the I-195 land, St. Martin said.

Once the parks are created, the state will be responsible for maintenance, which some officials have estimated could cost around $750,000 a year. The bridge will be owned and maintained by the city.

City Planner Bonnie Nickerson said it’s too soon to tell what bridge maintenance could cost.

For the Jewelry District Association, the pedestrian bridge can’t be built soon enough.

The association, which has been heavily involved in the project since its inception, promotes economic development in the area. The group is urging officials to begin construction on the bridge in the spring, rather than summer, so it will be ready by spring 2017. That’s when other construction projects in the area will be ready, the group said.

Sharon Steele, the chairwoman of the association’s quality of life committee, worries the project could be delayed again, which could inflate costs and stall economic development in the area.

“We need, literally, that connection,” Steele said. “It facilitates economic development.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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