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Photo: From the report filed by the Providence Streets Coalition to the City of Providence to support bike lanes on Hope Street shows the cracked and lifted sidewalks.
The energetic, failed efforts to bring bike lanes to one of the most congested Providence roadways – East Side’s Hope Street merchants area – didn’t seem to notice the badly deteriorated condition of the sidewalks on this well-walked shopping and dining area.
After over a year fighting inappropriate bike lanes proposed for the area of Hope Street, where over 900 petitioners including store owners, shoppers and residents expressed their opposition to bike lanes along the stretch from Rochambeau to 5th Street to Mayor Brett Smiley, almost as soon as he took office, one thing that became clear at public meetings was the need to fix the sidewalks.
One store owner literally jumped up at a public meeting at Rochambeau Library to talk about the dire condition of the sidewalks, the customers who have fallen and been injured, and how that should take priority. Liza Burke, the advocate working on promotion of the bike lanes said that that was a whole lot more money than it would take to do a bike lane, passed it off, and walked away from residents who were seconding the concern.
Hope on the way for Hope Street
But hope may be on the way in Mayor Brett P. Smiley’s new FY24 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), outlining $132 million of infrastructure investments over the next two fiscal years that will improve the local quality-of-life of residents and “help make Providence the best-run city in America”.
Most investments included in this plan touch upon four main categories: Public Works, Public Property, Public Parks and Public Space (Planning).
“These investments help set Providence on the path to becoming the world-class city it has the potential to be,” said Mayor Brett Smiley. “I am incredibly proud to be putting forth a comprehensive plan for the City’s infrastructure aligned with our goals to improve city services and make Providence more climate resilient. I look forward to working with the City Council to finalize a plan that invests in every one of our neighborhoods.”
Quality of Sidewalks a Major Concern
When RINewsToday inquired specifically about the sidewalk repair, Josh Estrella, Press Secretary for Mayor Smiley, wrote back, “There is currently a proposal for sidewalk repairs on Hope Street beginning from the library and continuing north towards 5th street.”
The FY24 Capital Improvement Plan is designed to better meet the needs of residents and businesses across the city. When engaged in the Community Satisfaction Survey earlier this year, residents noted the quality of sidewalks as a top concern. This CIP responds to those concerns by proposing $26 million in sidewalk repairs and improving ADA accessibility.
Hope Street & Hope Street Merchants Association
“Obviously, the Mayor really listened to us,” said one store owner who did not want to be named. The bike lane controversy created animosity from store owners who were inclined to try it and those who were adamantly against it. One store, Bubbies, a Jewish market was vandalized by an angry bike supporter. Earlier this year Trek Bicycle closed their shop a few doors down.
It is unclear if crosswalks would be included under this project.
In the last few days, what was once attractive decorative cobblestone walkways have started to be removed in the downtown Providence areas such as Dorrance and Westminster. While it’s a shame to see them go, they had become dangerous to both cars and pedestrians, as repeated road and under-road repairs have been made, and the areas will return to flat pavement.
The rest of the plan for Providence’s infrastructure
Over $61 million for road maintenance, street repair, and street resurfacing over the next five years; and $35 million per year for sewers and storm water management are planned. In total, this plan has $51,250,000 in proposed public works investments that add on to the $193,000 invested in sidewalks through the FY24 operating budget and $3 million in ARPA funding used to make repairs to the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier.
Mayor Smiley believes that our public buildings must be welcoming and accessible to provide the best city services to our many residents and businesses. Through this CIP, $47,635,000 will go towards improvements to public safety structures, recreation centers, and publicly owned buildings. That includes $14 million for repairs to City Hall and $25 million for a new Public Works Complex. These investments are further supplemented by infrastructure repairs included in this year’s operating budget.
Mayor Smiley also understands the incredible impact our public parks and greenspaces have on our neighborhoods. These spaces are used for learning, offer free summer meals, and support the physical and mental health of our residents. The proposed FY24 CIP would invest $14,880,000 in public parks, which would include repairs to all of our waterparks widely used by Providence families in summer months. These investments build on the $13 million the City has invested across 39 city parks and greenspaces over the last year and $25,000 that was allotted in the FY24 operating budget for Downtown Parks.
Through this Capital Improvement Plan, Mayor Smiley is also investing in street safety, accessibility and citywide climate resiliency. In the proposed FY24 CIP, there is $11,110,000 that would go towards matching federal funding initiatives like the Safe Streets for All Grant ($27.2 million grant; $6.8 million CIP match) and Woonasquatucket River Greenway enhancement ($6.1 million through various funding; $3.95 million City match).
The Capital Improvement Plan is a city document that outlines planned improvements to Providence’s public infrastructure over the course of five years. Mayor Smiley’s comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan identifies and prioritizes city projects to address the City’s long-term infrastructure needs. Many of the investments outlined in this proposed CIP are supported by investments in the City’s FY24 budget and those made using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funding.
Those wanting to provide positive comment on the proposal can contact their City Council representative or email here: https://council.providenceri.gov/connect/contact-us/ – Joseph Mulligan, Director of Planning, firstname.lastname@example.org – or Mayor Smiley at: https://www.providenceri.gov/mayor/mayors-office-contact-us/ or 680-5000 and request the mayor’s office.
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