Work begins on safer bike detour in Barrington and Warren

Town manager says DOT commits to replacing bike path bridges; DOT does not agree

By Josh Bickford
Posted 8/27/21

Work started this week on a project to make the East Bay Bike Path bridges detour a little bit safer.

That is the good news. 

But as Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha was quick to point …

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Work begins on safer bike detour in Barrington and Warren

Town manager says DOT commits to replacing bike path bridges; DOT does not agree

Posted

Work started this week on a project to make the East Bay Bike Path bridges detour a little bit safer.

That is the good news. 

But as Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha was quick to point out, the recent construction has likely made it more dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians currently trying to navigate the detour. Crews from D’Ambra Construction dug up and removed sections of sidewalk along County Road, New Meadow Road and Sowams Road earlier this week. 

“They’re trying to get it done as quickly as possible,” Mr. Cunha said. 

Once the work is completed, the detour promises a boardwalk with wider travel lanes for bikers and walkers crossing the Barrington and Warren River bridges, as well as safer connections between the bike path and the detour. 

Charles St. Martin, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, said the preliminary work will cost approximately $185,000. He said bids have not yet been received for the boardwalk decking that will be installed on the two vehicle bridges. 

“For the sidewalk work on New Meadow, County Road and Sowams Road, that is expected to be done this fall,” said Mr. St. Martin. “For the decking, the most recent estimate is the end of this year. All schedules are weather-dependent.”

The detour became a necessity when officials from the DOT ordered the bike path bridges closed nearly two years ago. The DOT re-routed bicycle and pedestrian traffic off the bike path bridges and onto the vehicle bridges’ sidewalks. 

Residents and Barrington officials have repeatedly asked the state to fast-track the replacement of the bike path bridges, but during a public forum a few months ago DOT officials proposed a safer detour and would not commit to replacing the bike path bridges. 

During an interview on Thursday, Aug. 26, Mr. Cunha said the DOT “absolutely” committed to replacing the bridges recently. He said the state shared that news during a meeting last month. Mr. Cunha also said the DOT had reduced the estimate to construct the new bike path bridges from more than $20 million to about $10 million. 

Mr. Cunha said pressure from taxpayers, town officials and East Bay legislative delegates had played a key role in the DOT committing to replace the bridges.

However, the DOT spokesman shared a different message on Friday morning, Aug. 27. When asked if it was true that the DOT had committed to replacing the bike path bridges, and at a reduced cost, Mr. St. Martin said “No.”

New Meadow Road

Mr. Cunha said he learned this week that DOT engineers had agreed to keep the southern end of New Meadow Road open to two-way traffic. Mr. Cunha had earlier requested New Meadow Road be kept open for two-way traffic, but initial plans by the state called for the road to be south-bound traffic only past the bike path intersection. 

“Apparently our assessment was right,” Mr. Cunha said.

Mr. St. Martin confirmed that New Meadow Road would remain two-way traffic.

“RIDOT favored making it a one-way road but based on the town’s request we are keeping two-way traffic on New Meadow and we are widening the sidewalk to provide room for the bikeway,” Mr. St. Martin said. 

Timeline for work

Following is a timeline for the remaining work on the East Bay Bike Path detour:

• Complete in August: Widen off-bridge paths along County Road between Police Cove and Barrington River Bridge; along New Meadow Road between County Road and the bike path; and along Sowams Road between bike path and Warren River Bridge. 

• Begin in September/complete this winter: Install boardwalks on Barrington and Warren river bridges; provide connection between Warren River Bridge back to bike path.

• Already completed work: Install flashing beacons; install additional signs and road striping; lay down water barriers along sidewalks.

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