Providence begins road changes due to Washington Bridge, bikers will move to sidewalk

Photo: Pamela Bhatia, Artistic Images

Mayor Brett Smiley Unveils Providence’s Impact Mitigation Response for the Washington Bridge Infrastructure Changes to Reduce Traffic, Improve Safety and Support Neighbors and Local Businesses  

Mayor Brett P. Smiley announced Wednesday Providence’s comprehensive impact mitigation plan to reduce traffic, improve safety, prevent additional damage to local streets and alleviate the burden the Washington Bridge closure is having on our neighbors and local businesses. The City of Providence has been collaborating across departments to develop temporary and permanent infrastructure solutions that will be implemented to reduce traffic congestion and improve the flow of vehicles throughout Providence neighborhoods.

Additionally, the Mayor announced an enforcement plan for the Providence City Council’s proposed weight limit ordinance aimed at preserving both our infrastructure and our local quality of life. On Monday, April 8 the Mayor is inviting Providence businesses and neighbors impacted by the closure to a community meeting to share how the bridge closure has impacted quality of life and learn more about Providence’s impact mitigation plan.

“The closure of the Washington Bridge has had an increasingly negative impact on our neighbors, businesses, infrastructure and our local quality of life,” said Mayor Brett P. Smiley. “Providence is responding by implementing temporary and permanent infrastructure changes that will bring much needed relief to our neighbors and business owners that have been negatively impacted by the congestion and traffic volume in our neighborhoods. I understand the concerns and frustration our neighbors are experiencing, and I am committed to doing everything we can to ease the impact this is having on our city.”

On Monday, April 8 the City will host a community meeting at Nathan Bishop Middle School at 5:30PM inviting community members impacted by the closure to share how they have been impacted. In addition to the traffic and pedestrian changes announced today, the City will continue to review short- and long-term relief that can be provided to businesses, their employees and neighbors whose quality-of-life has been negatively impacted by the changes.

Given the increase of travel times since the bridge closure, drivers are often opting to leave the state highways to travel along city streets throughout the city. With the increase in cars across neighborhoods and in collaboration with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), the city is implementing critical adjustments aimed at alleviating congestion, improving pedestrian safety and increasing traffic flow along the detour route and in key areas throughout the city most impacted by the additional traffic.

In the weeks following the initial closure, RIDOT proactively made changes, supported by the City, to coordinate signal timing changes on the streets along the detour route from the Henderson Bridge, including S Angell St, Angell St and Gano St to reduce congestion from the increased volume of traffic by increasing the length of light times. Since then, we have monitored traffic in these locations closely to fine tune them to improve traffic movement. Additionally, the City and State have changed light times at: 

·         Eddy St 

·         Point St 

·         Allens Ave,  

·         John J. Partington Way 

·         And Dave Gavitt Way  

These completed changes will expedite the flow of traffic and increase pedestrian cross time on.  

Over the coming weeks, the City will work with RIDOT to complete additional signage, striping and pavement marking improvements to help reduce congestion in impacted areas: 

  • Eddy St Northbound at Point St: Middle travel lane to be converted to a shared through lane/right turn lane to add capacity to the intersection and provide an additional route. (Expected completion the week of 4/22/2024, weather dependent)   
  • “DO NOT BLOCK THE BOX” signs and markings to be installed at the following locations (expected completion the week of 4/22/2024 weather dependent):  
  • Gano St and Angell St 
  • Richmond St and Point St 
  • S Water St and Wickenden St 
  • S Main St and India St 
  • Refreshing existing pavement markings along the route from Henderson Bridge to I-195 Westbound on the following streets (expected completion the week of 4/29/2024, weather dependent):  

o    S Angell St 

o    Angell St 

o    Gano St 

Removal of unnecessary detour signage (multiple streets). 

Due to the increased volume of traffic on local city roads there has been a decrease in pedestrian safety across communities that have become cut-throughs or detours for this traffic. The City has reviewed this impact on public safety and will be implementing permanent pedestrian safety infrastructure in strategic locations across the city.

This includes:  

·         Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFB) installed at Angell St and Elmgrove Ave 

·         Raised crosswalk installation at James St and S Water St 

·         New signage to better alert drivers to pedestrian crossings at multiple locations. 

In response to the Providence City Council’s proposed weight limit ordinance, Mayor Smiley announced the City’s enforcement plan details. All local deliveries, emergency vehicles, school buses, RIPTA buses, utility, City, State and vendor trucks performing work on or abutting the impacted roads will be exempt from enforcement. Commercial vehicles are asked to be prepared with delivery, destination or work order information when traveling along these streets. This change will help preserve our local infrastructure, improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian safety by ensuring that these heavy vehicles remain on the highway and out of our neighborhoods. 

As part of these mitigation efforts, the Administration plans to remove the two-way protected bike path along S Water St and relocate the infrastructure to the raised sidewalk immediately adjacent to the existing bike path in order to restore the lanes of travel to two lanes, maintain a parking lane with adequate space and preserve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure along S Water street.

As part of this relocation, the Administration will conduct community engagement meetings throughout Summer 2024 and then present the final plan for removal and plans for design to the Green and Complete Streets Advisory council for their informational review.  


Bike Lane uproar

Any attempts to remove or adjust bike lanes usually meets with orchestrated uproar among bike “lobby” advocates. Pete Buttigieg noted, as reported in the Providence Journal and with The Public’s Radio: “This isn’t just about recreation…this is really about the safety.”

Councilman John Goncalves, noted in a Boston Globe article, that there are “unanswered questions concerning the significant expenses involved, the financing sources, the detailed plan of action, and the absence of data to justify the removal of the bikes lanes.” He has been extremely active on the issue of removing the bike lanes to accommodate better traffic flow.

Rep. Enrique Sanchez went further on “X”, stating, “The decision for the Mayor of Providence to remove the South Water Main Street Bike Lanes will cost him politically. What a bad policy decision. My God. We need bikes lanes in our city, that’s the simple reality. We need alternatives to cars and more public transportation.

Providence City Council to hold public forum on So. Water St. bike lane

April 4th at 5:15PM the Council will hole a 30 minute discussion for the public on the bike lane issue. Each person who wants to speak will be given 1 minute. This is prior to the full Council meeting.

Mayor Smiley is also planning public meetings in the summer to discuss how the bike lane redirect is going.

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  2. barry schiller on April 4, 2024 at 1:34 pm

    Smiley has it backwards by promoting car travel and discouraging bicycling. Instead, to help reduce bridge congestion, with warmer weather coming soon, better to encourage bike travel and more use of the bike path across the bridge. It would also help if Smiley promoted the idea of fare-free East Bay buses during the reconstruction to encourage some drivers to switch to transit, and reward those that do for helping reduce congestion.
    Also, being seniors who like to visit the pedestrian bridge and nearby sites, my wife and I remember how daunting it was to cross South Water when there were 2 lanes of speeding traffic, yet Smiley wants to bring back those dangerous conditions. Ugh!