Washington Bridge Failure: Where Was the Outcry for Sidewalks and Bike Lanes? A Car-Centric Standstill
December 14, 2023
A critical failure on Rhode Island’s Washington Bridge meant drivers didn’t have a quick way to travel, that things became more inaccessible, so a state wide emergency was nearly a given. The state, once fitted with train, trolley, and even considered something more, has been put at a standstill because it focused too much on moving cars, not people.
Where was this urgency elsewhere? Many crucial parts of major Rhode Island cities lack basic sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transit. For example, the newly redone Henderson Bridge, one of the few major city connections for non-car users, didn’t even sport a sidewalk or bicycle lane. And even when a fuss was raised, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation lied and said there was, basically kicking the problem to the curb.
Yet, when cars suffer an accessibility issue, RIDOT instead forces it into high gear; it nearly becomes a state wide emergency.
On Monday, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation closed one of the few bridges that connects major cities due to a critical failure in the infrastructure. Vehicle traffic was backed up for hours on one of the only alternative routes, the Henderson Bridge. Repairs could take weeks, so what’s left? A several week reminder that car centricity is not the way forward.
And, up until now, I understand that I’m coming off as smug, but I ask the reader to put yourselves in the shoes of those of us who don’t drive. We hardly have access to the roads, are constantly lied to, and ultimately, due to little to no infrastructure, our lives don’t even seem to matter.
I understand that emergency services need to travel quickly, that schools, workplaces, and a good part of the economy will shudder as the fixes are underway, but this is an issue, an “only build for cars” infrastructure issue. For many years, advocates, sustainability experts, and community members have raised red flags, only for RIDOT to waive them off. This is one of the many widely predicted predicaments the state could find itself in that it ignored. It pigeonholed itself, placing all the eggs in the car basket, and that basket has broken.
Now the question remains, will RIDOT or any of our elected officials address the root of the issue? By the way things have gone for over a decade, no.
Victor Martelle is a resident of Providence’s East Side.
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