E.P. Council reverses course, allows First Street pilot bike lane

Gives approval to initial 30-day trial period

By Mike Rego
Posted 6/16/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — The endeavor of the Planning Department and the Department of Public Works to conduct a pilot program bicycle lane connecting the Redman Linear Park on Interstate 195 with the …

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E.P. Council reverses course, allows First Street pilot bike lane

Gives approval to initial 30-day trial period

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The endeavor of the Planning Department and the Department of Public Works to conduct a pilot program bicycle lane connecting the Redman Linear Park on Interstate 195 with the East Bay Bike Path via First Street, stalled two weeks ago by the City Council, received formal approval from the body at its June 15 meeting.

The council voted 3-2 to allow for at least a 30-day trial of the program, which will begin when the lane is ready for use, which according to Planning Director Bill Fazioli likely won’t be until sometime in July at the earliest. A contractor to stripe the lane needs to hired and scheduled, he said.

The program calls for the installation of north and southbound lanes of travel for bicyclists on First Street as they approach from the Redman Park or the Bike Path.

For motorists, First Street would become a one way from Warren Avenue to Mauran Avenue. Drivers coming from Veterans Memorial Parkway would still have access, but if their intention is to reach Warren they would be directed to turn left at Mauran, then right onto Waterfront Drive before approaching Warren.

Council President and Ward 1 representative Bob Britto voted for the proposal as did Ward 3’s Nate Cahoon and At-Large member Bob Rodericks, who stressed the pilot program meant it was a “temporary” effort, which would need further approval from council for it to be sustained beyond the initial 30-day trial.

Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa, First Street is in her district, and Ward 4’s Ricardo Mourato voted against the proposal. Councilor Sousa led the initial opposition to the program at the body’s June 1 meeting, raising her concerns about the impact it would have on traffic and to the businesses located on First Street and adjacent Warren Avenue.

She also took some umbrage that signage was set in place several months ago by DPW without the knowledge and/or consent of the council, which she correctly pointed out has authority, through ordinance, on any traffic signal or travel direction changes made in the city. Mr. Mourato, as well two weeks ago, expressed his concern about that and the manner in which the administration of Mayor Bob DaSilva approached the pilot bike program, calling it part of a pattern of attempting to usurp the council.

Last week, Mr. Fazioli, DPW Director Dan Borges and Planning Department intern Dominic Leonardo each explained the pilot program was designed to make the congested location as safe as possible for both bicyclists and motorist.

After Councilor Sousa speculated if other roadways or travel restrictions were better alternatives to connecting the park with the path at First Street, each said there weren't. In fact, the state planning authority has cited First Street as the best way at the moment to merge pedestrians and bicyclists with both 

As for the impact on traffic, Mr. Leonardo led a Planning car counting study of First Street, which he said found some 70 percent of vehicles drive south from Warren to the Parkway. It was for that reason it was decided to direct vehicles one way in the southerly direction for the pilot program.

Mr. Borges said his department and Planning would likely need more than 30 days to collect necessary data on the effectiveness of the program. He pledged to keep the council informed on the pros and cons found throughout the implementation phase.

Mr. Fazioli, who also apologized on behalf of the administration for any unintended slights of council participation earlier in the process, said the First Street bike lane would be temporary in any event.

The entire Warren Avenue basin at Watchmoket Square is to be reconfigured once the Rhode Island Department of Transportation constructs the long-sought new ramp connecting I-195 and Waterfront Drive. He said that is expected to take place sometime in the next five years. Once complete, the city is already working on plans to make Warren Avenue/Watchemoket Square a more pedestrian/driver friendly area.

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