PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The final plan to reinvent Providence streets was released Monday, aimed at better connecting streets for bicycles and pedestrians to get around.
The Great Streets plan calls for 70 miles of improvements, including an “urban trail” network of pathways to make it safer and easier to traverse Providence by bike, scooter, skateboard or foot, separating the paths from cars with a variety of barriers.
The plan also includes traffic-calming efforts on certain streets and unsafe intersections, and adding streetscapes to make the roads more attractive.
The goal is to connect the paths throughout the city, as opposed to the existing set of disjointed bike lanes that require cyclists to merge back into traffic on streets that don’t have dedicated lanes.
The plan has garnered backlash from people who live on streets that will lose travel lanes or a row of parking to make way for the new bike lanes.
“Our streets are our largest public asset,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said at a news conference about the finalized plan. “It’s high time we designed our streets for kids, not just for trucks.”
More than half of the network of urban trails is expected to be finished in the next two to three years, according to Martina Haggerty, the director of special projects in the Providence Planning Department.
“It’s going to take us a long time to build out that entire vision,” Haggerty said. The plan was “fine-tuned” from a draft released last year after receiving public comment.
A total dollar figure for the project has not been calculated — some projects in the plan have not yet been designed — but $20 million from the city’s five-year capital improvement plan is earmarked for Great Streets.
Estimates are that the improvements will cost between $300,000 to $500,000 per mile of road, Haggerty said.
According to the plan, streets that would lose a lane of car travel include Angell Street, Waterman Avenue, Richmond Street, Empire Street, Memorial Boulevard, Broad Street, Elmwood Avenue, South Water Street, North Main Street, Reservoir Avenue and Smith Street.
Other streets would get their lanes narrowed, but not removed, and others would keep all their lanes but lose street parking on one side. That’s what’s in store for Mount Pleasant Avenue, where neighbors have already expressed opposition to the upcoming bike lane project.
“My community has overwhelmingly rejected two-way bike lanes without a plan,” said City Councilor Jo-Ann Ryan, the majority leader who represents Mount Pleasant Avenue. “This concept has several legislative and safety concerns … and I plan to pursue legislative actions to protect our communities and our precious tax revenues.”
The very first street to get the two-way bike lanes, Eaton Street, had to be put back to its old configuration after neighbors said the narrowed lanes were too dangerous.
“I think change is always difficult,” Elorza said. “We’re mistaken if we believe that the future will be like the past.”
City Councilor Rachel Miller agreed, telling the crowd at Monday’s event that her attempts to bike around the city can be fruitless.
“I put my bike in my car and I take it to a bike path,” she said.
“We’re about 20 years late to the party,” Elorza said.