New path forward for an old rail line

Advocates envision a 'Mount Hope Bay Greenway' connecting Tiverton to the Spindle City

By Ruth Rasmussen
Posted 5/10/24

It’s a dream local cycling enthusiasts have nurtured for more than two decades — the creation of a safe, recreational pedestrian and bike pathway that would connect the Sakonnet River …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

New path forward for an old rail line

Advocates envision a 'Mount Hope Bay Greenway' connecting Tiverton to the Spindle City


It’s a dream local cycling enthusiasts have nurtured for more than two decades — the creation of a safe, recreational pedestrian and bike pathway that would connect the Sakonnet River Bridge with Fall River.

The proposed 2.8-mile Mount Hope Bay Greenway (MHBG) bike path would be built on a long-abandoned railroad site that follows a scenic stretch of shoreline along the eastern shore of Mount Hope Bay. Advocates say the design, engineering and construction costs will run $3.5 million that would be covered by a federal grant, if approved, and matching state funds.

Now, with new momentum created by the opening this summer of the South Coast commuter rail station in Fall River and the availability of a competitive federal grant program that would support projects of this type, the path could become a reality before the end of the decade.

At their April 24 meeting, Tiverton Town Council members agreed to send a letter to the state supporting a pathway with a “Rail-and-Trail” design, with the stipulation that the town would incur no expenses, other than those associated with routine maintenance, such as pruning and mowing, once the project is complete.

The letter would mirror one issued by a previous town council in 2020, town administrator Chris Cotta said.

“It’s a viable project that has great merit. This would be a great amenity for the area. There is a lot of community support for it, [and] a lot of local and regional support.”

Cotta said the timing is perfect, now that the commuter rail station in Fall River is slated to open within a few months.

“There has always been the promise that the train [from Fall River to Boston] was coming. It’s been going on for 20 years. Now it’s here, so there is a high probability of…actually seeing funding from the state and federal government to make this [bike path] happen.”

Tiverton town officials and the city of Fall River have consistently supported the idea of a connecting pathway through the years, but progress has been hampered in part by the limited availability of funds and what advocates say has been the tendency of government officials to favor projects centered on cars rather than non-motorized alternatives. 

Since the abandoned railroad line is owned by the state and maintained by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), that agency would be responsible for construction of the pathway in collaboration with the state of Massachusetts.

The councilors’ vote of support came after hearing from Marco Dirks, a Tiverton Harbor Commission member who earlier in the week had been given the go-ahead by his fellow commissioners to present the proposal to the council.

Dirks said the project’s supporters envision a “linear park” with various cut-outs along the trail with park benches and open coastal access where both pedestrians and cyclists could enjoy scenic views. He added that in addition to the recreational aspect, the bike path would serve as alternative transportation for individuals traveling to the Fall River train station to get to work. Additionally, he said it would be a draw for those living in the “traditionally underserved” community of North Tiverton. 

Dirks noted that the bike path could eventually tie in to one now under consideration by the towns of Portsmouth, Middletown, and Newport.

“You could take the bus, go to the rideshare parking lot on the Portsmouth side, jump on the bike trail across the bridge and bike all the way to Fall River or bike all the way to Newport. It’s such a rich opportunity, especially with federal money being available.”

Pointing to successful pathways operating throughout Rhode Island, Dirks said it would not be necessary to “reinvent the wheel.”

“There are lots of success stories where these trails are supported by RIDOT. I think the Tiverton portion actually stands ahead of those, in the sense that it is not only a recreational opportunity but it can also change how people can commute to their jobs.”

Kathleen Gannon, board chair of the RI Bicycle Coalition, also addressed the council, emphasizing the safety, recreational, and economic benefits of the project.

Next steps

Dirks said endorsement of the project by Tiverton’s state legislators is required so it can be added to RIDOT’s list of Transportation Improvement Projects. Support will also be needed from various stakeholders, including youth support groups and bicycle organizations. The federal grant application would like be handled through the state’s Division of Statewide Planning, Cotta said. The application deadline is June 17.

Tiverton resident Peter Moniz, chair of the Bike Tiverton advocacy group, addressed the council after last month’s vote, saying he and others have been pushing for the project for close to 25 years. The town’s letter of support would go a long way, he said, in getting state legislators representing towns in this region to fight for the project, particularly in light of the economic and recreational benefits it would bring to both the town and the state of Rhode Island.   

Moniz predicted afterwards that the timeline for all phases of the project, assuming state and federal approval is granted, would be roughly two-and-a-half to three years.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.