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State floats ‘road diet’ for East Main Road, Portsmouth

RIDOT says reducing road from four lanes to three would improve safety, but increase delays

By Jim McGaw
Posted 8/10/20

PORTSMOUTH — A state transportation proposal to reduce East Main Road from four lanes to three will be presented to the Town Council Tuesday night, Aug. 11.

According to the R.I. …

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State floats ‘road diet’ for East Main Road, Portsmouth

RIDOT says reducing road from four lanes to three would improve safety, but increase delays

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — A state transportation proposal to reduce East Main Road from four lanes to three will be presented to the Town Council Tuesday night, Aug. 11.

According to the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the so-called “road diet” would improve traffic and pedestrian safety by slowing vehicles and reducing the number of crashes.

At the same time, RIDOT acknowledges, a lane reduction would reduce road capacity which would lead to increased queues and delays.

A road diet is when an existing four-lane undivided roadway is converted to a three-lane roadway consisting of two thru lanes and a center two-way, left-turn lane.

RIDOT has already implemented road diets on Bristol Ferry Road, from Sprague Street north to Boyds Lane; and on a section of East Main Road from Turnpike Avenue north to Boyds Lane.

The “study area” being eyed for another road diet is East Main Road, from the Middletown line north to Turnpike Avenue at Clements’ Marketplace.

Currently, that stretch of East Main Road features four lanes of travel, each 10 feet wide, with no sidewalks. The speed limit varies from 25 to 35 mph, although the 85th percentile speeds measured from 42 to 38 mph.

(The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of the motorists drive on a given road unaffected by slower traffic or poor weather. It indicates the speed most motorists consider safe and reasonable under ideal conditions, and is used by traffic engineers as a guideline for setting an appropriate speed limit for that road.)

RIDOT cites statistics from the Federal Highway Administration that show road diets reduce the number of total crashes by anywhere from 19 to 47 percent. 

According to RIDOT, Rhode Island road diets have seen a 78-percent average reduction in total crashes as well as a 5 mph average reduction in 85th percentile speed. (RIDOT plans to present crash data review from 2013 to 2018 as past of its Road Safety Assessment report at Tuesday’s meeting.)

The benefits of a road diet, according to RIDOT, are a reduction in speeding and accidents, fewer lanes for pedestrians to cross, refuge for left-turning vehicles, and a reconfiguration that would provide a roadway shoulder. A minimum of a four-foot shoulder that would be needed for a bike lane, however, is not met under the plan.

More congestion

The downside, according to RIDOT: more traffic congestion, especially during the evening peak period. Here’s what a road diet would mean for the section of East Main Road between Turnpike Avenue and Stub Toe Lane, according to RIDOT: 

Although about 97 percent of vehicles could be “processed” during the morning peak period from 7:30-9 a.m., only about 65 percent of vehicles could be processed from 3:30-5:30 p.m., the second daily peak period.

“Congestion would possibly cause vehicles (to) relocate to West Main Road,” RIDOT stated in its report.

In the morning, the average speeds for both northbound and southbound traffic would be 20 to 25 mph. That would drop to 10 mph for the northbound approach during the second peak period later in the day, and side street traffic would have a difficult time entering or exiting East Main Road.

Accessing the meeting

Members of the public are welcome to view or listen to the virtual meeting, and to make comments. 

To access the meeting by phone, dial 1-888-788-0099. Once prompted for the meeting ID, dial 996-8471-9966# and once prompted for a participant ID, dial # again. You will now be in the meeting.

While in the audio conference, to raise your hand to ask a question, dial *9 and the host will be notified of your interest to ask a question. Dial *6 to mute and unmute yourself.

To access the meeting through the web using a computer or mobile device, go to the following web link in any browser to run the Zoom application and view the meeting:

https://livestream.portsmouthri.com/towncouncil

Using your laptop or mobile device, you can raise your hand to ask a question, or pose the question in the moderated “Question and Answering” chat window. The host will then be able to respond to your raised hand or Q&A question.

The full agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting can be viewed here.

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