To the editor:
Recently the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) announced a change in their bike path design for Aquidneck island. I believe this new plan will cause major problems for Portsmouth.
A bike path along the railroad right of way (ROW) as originally envisioned by AIPC could be good for Aquidneck Island, but AIPC has changed that plan to now use town roads. In Portsmouth, the plan reduces about four miles of four-lane roads (West Main and Bristol Ferry) to two lanes. (Note that it is perfectly legal for bikers to use these roads today.)
These lane reductions will negatively impact tens of thousands of cars every day, while the bike path will be used by relatively few bikers and only during the good weather. These roads are also a primary bus route and reduced to only one travel lane, cars will either back up behind the buses and/or it will be much more difficult and dangerous for buses to merge with traffic after their stops.
The recent town survey found that traffic is already perceived as a major problem. The additional traffic caused by the lane reductions will be even worse after tolls are initiated on the Sakonnet Bridge. Cars will be using the roads with the reduced lanes to and from the Mt. Hope Bridge to avoid the tolls. (Is this a plan to force people to use the toll bridge by increasing congestion on the alternative route?)
AIPC says each town will be responsible for the maintenance of the bike path in their municipality. Portsmouth is the only town with a costly, high maintenance section planned along the water. Our town is not able to find the money to properly maintain its present parks and beaches and they are used by many more town people than would use that bike path. Why should we be forced to accept this additional drain on our revenues when we cannot afford to keep up the recreational facilities we presently have?
AIPC says this bike path will have a positive economic impact on Portsmouth. However, the planned route goes in sight of only eight Portsmouth businesses, none of which would benefit from the bike traffic. And new businesses are unlikely to spring up along the route to service a limited number of seasonal bikers passing through on this (in AIPC’s words) “interim bike path.” As usual, AIPC’s plan will funnel people to Newport to spend their money while leaving Portsmouth with the traffic problems, expenses and no revenue.
I understand AIPC and the R.I. Department of Transportation are receiving pressure to justify the bike lane they put on the Sakonnet Bridge because it does not connect with a path on either side. There is absolutely no reason to allow them to justify that bike lane at Portsmouth’s expense. They need to ensure that our roads are fixed, we have sidewalks on our major streets and only then if they have any of our tax dollars left, go back to their original railroad ROW bike path plan that does not have a negative impact on Portsmouth traffic.