Coming to a Bike Path Near You October 5, 2013

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to get the latest on the renovations that have kept direct access from India Point to the East Bay Bike Path closed for the past year.  The tour was arranged as one of the many activities offered at this year’s 4th annual New England Bike-Walk Summit at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence.

The Washington Bridge over the Seekonk River

The Summit is hosted by the East Coast Greenway and attracts community planners and advocates for improved biking and walking conditions in our cities and towns.  For the event, Providence is showcased as an example of successes, failures, and to-be-determined activity that other places can relate to.  The Washington Bridge - or George Redmond Linear Park as it will be known - is the final piece of the Washington Bridge reconstruction that replaced the old arch bridge from the 1930’s with a modern steel beam highway bridge over the Seekonk River. 

future crossing

The linear park is an example of some creative collaboration between Local, State, and Federal agencies that will result in a significant improvement for cyclists and pedestrians who have endured limited access to this important crossing through the years.  Those who have used the old sidewalk next to the highway remember the narrow concrete channel with high speed cars and trucks just a chainlink fence away.

remember this?

It has been a long process, but today we saw the progress being made since the project began in 2007.  Essentially the original bridge was sliced along its length so that 20 feet of the original width remains on the downstream side.  The original arches and facade are being restored so that the view from the river remains from the original 1930 structure.  It is the historical significance of the original arched spans that justified preserving this section of the bridge and allowed for a separated bike and pedestrian crossing.

Geo.Washington was here

The project is expected to be completed sometime in the summer of 2014, and according to Bill Desantis of the primary design firm Vanasse Hangen and Brustlin (VHB), construction is running a month behind schedule.  In the meantime, non-motorized traffic will continue to be redirected to the Henderson Bridge which crosses the Seekonk about 1 mile to the north for a total detour of approximately 3 miles.

coming along

When it is completed this facility will not only be the best way for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Seekonk River, but will link two important state bike routes, the Blackstone River and East Bay bike paths.  In addition, The East Coast Greenway uses this connection in its route from Maine to Florida.  This could prove to be a significant attraction to boost tourism, particularly bicycle tourism in the region prompting further improvements to the bike-ped infrastructure in Providence.