2007-05-31 / News

Roadway upgrades precede downtown improvement project

By Dotti Farrington

Designs for the long-awaited Downtown Improvement Project (DIP), also known as the streetscape program, are 90 percent complete and awaiting federal funding, which will not be available before October, according to Town Planner Lisa Bryer.

The road and sidewalk work now underway in the village area is to provide a seasonal fix of sidewalk problems and to place pre-permanent surfaces on road openings made for water main work being done by the town, she explained.

Town Finance Director Tina Collins said Monday the town is not holding any funds towards the work, but money has been approved for reimbursement to the town once the work is completed. The current work is being paid out of the $6 million municipal bond for water improvements, which includes refurbishment of the treatment plant. Bryer commented that the delay in the DIP work reflects the lack of funding from federal sources to state authorities from whom the town will get the grants. She specified that the DIP delay was not because of the water main work.

Town officials were concerned last year that there would be a conflict about timing of the water work and DIP-related paving, and that one might delay the other or result in duplication of some paving. Town officials determined it would be best to complete the water work now so any new paving would not have to be disturbed later.

The DIP is designed in two phases, which will be done simultaneously, as soon as all funds are available, Bryer reports.

Phase one is designated as Narragansett Avenue from East Ferry to the town fire station and phase two is from the fire station to Maple Avenue. The plans cover sidewalks, curbing, crosswalks, benches, trash cans, lighting, bike racks and tree replacement.

The town began working on the DIP a few years after the 1992 opening of the Jamestown Bridge and related work that led to increased tourism and downtown business, according to the town's Comprehensive Plan of Development (ComPlan). The plan noted that the state had responsibility for 21.6 miles of the island's 78 miles of roads. The state total includes Narragansett Avenue, due for paving timed to coordinate with DIP streetcape features.

Some townspeople, especially businessmen, had hoped the DIP would include the burying of utility wires, but the state had vetoed that enhancement.

The DIP was designed in conjunction with the philosophy expressed in the ComPlan that "Jamestown's village should continue to be pedestrian friendly. The Downtown Improvement Project funded through the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Transportation Improvement Program and under design in 2000-2001 should foster this walkable village atmosphere."

Town officials, ComPlan states, "have worked closely with the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce, formerly the Jamestown Village Association, on the development of the Downtown Improvement Project funded by DOT through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act."

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