Lawmakers Request $20 Million to Repair Damaged East Bay Bike Path Bridges
June 7, 2021
A group of East Bay representatives want the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to firmly commit to repairing and reopening two bridges on the East Bay Bike Path that have been closed since 2019.
A resolution introduced by Rep. Jason Knight, D-Barrington, and cosponsored by seven representatives, would appropriate $20 million to RIDOT for the purpose of repairing two bridges over rivers in Barrington and Warren, both former railroad bridges that were bicycle- and pedestrian-only until they were closed two years ago because of structural deterioration.
At the time, RIDOT said it would replace the bridges in two years at a cost of $10 million. Now it says the cost will be $25 million, and RIDOT director Peter Alviti has publicly questioned the value of repairing them and has instead proposed an “enhanced detour” on the bike path as an alternative.
“The East Bay Bike Path is an essential part of our transportation infrastructure in the East Bay and the state as a whole, and these bridges play no small role in making it so,” Knight said. “Bridges that are just for bicyclists and pedestrians guarantee them a safe route over the rivers. There’s a limit to how ‘enhanced’ any detour can be on the busy, bottlenecked Route 114 motorist bridges. These detours are not a long-term solution, and in this case, they are significantly impacting the quality of an important transportation and recreational resource that serves as a key connector for workers, shoppers, tourists and school kids in our region.”
More than 70 community members attended an online public presentation last month by RIDOT and the Barrington and Warren town councils to discuss temporary fixes to the bridge closures that have forced cyclists young and old onto busy motor vehicle bridges.
Municipal officials gave the temporary plan a hesitant go-ahead, seeing it as the only viable solution in the short term. But many pushed back when a RIDOT official suggested making these reroutes permanent to avoid an expensive bridge reconstruction project.
“One of the greatest features of the East Bay Bike Path is that, before these bridges closed, it has always been a very safe place for bicyclists and pedestrians where they are not sharing space with vehicles,” said House Majority Whip Katherine Kazarian, D-East Providence. “Failure to repair and reopen the bridges is putting users of the path at risk. Getting the bridges back in safe order is necessary, and it should be done as soon as possible.”
The resolution (H6372) was introduced May 28 and referred to the House Finance Committee.
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