2010-11-25 / Front Page

RIDOT funding possible for island bike path

By Phil Zahodiakin

Jamestown has requested a Rhode Island Department of Transportation grant to pay for the first phase of its bike route initiative, and RIDOT is amenable to the request, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser learned during a meeting with RIDOT director Michael Lewis and several of his staff members.

Keiser and Town Councilor Mike White met with RIDOT on Nov. 16. One of the RIDOT staffers in attendance, Lambri Zerva, also serves as a non-voting member of the Jamestown Bike Path Design Committee.

A report on the bike path proposal was presented to the Town Council on May 17. The path would run from the eastern end of the Jamestown Bridge along North Road, across the southern end of North Pond, along an open field to Eldred Avenue and further along Eldred Avenue to East Shore Road.

One of the issues briefly discussed during the meeting was a Committee proposal for the town to seek a speed-limit reduction to 25 mph along the Great Creek stretch of North Road.

“Director Lewis said the department would be happy to work with the town in addressing that issue if the Council decides to advance a request for a speed limit reduction,” Keiser said.

Currently, the speed-limit along that stretch of North Road – which doesn’t have any space dedicated for bike shoulders – is 40 mph. The Committee recommends extending a 25-mph limit half a mile northwards from Arnold Avenue. So far, however, none of the town councilors has expressed any particular support for the proposed speed-limit reduction.

But the Council has endorsed the bike path, in general, and after the May 17 presentation from Bike Path Committee member Robert Sutton, the councilors extended the committee’s charge to continue working on the plan. Pare Engineering would prepare the specifications package at an estimated cost of $18,500.

Keiser said that the town would bypass the request-for-proposal process and award the job to Pare because “they have been retained by the town for the last 10 years as the maintenance engineers for the North Road reservoir, [whose southern shoreline would include a portion of the bike path].”

The first phase of design specifi cations, Keiser explained, “would include a variety of project components, such as excavation work, soilfoundation improvements, and the various materials that would need to be utilized.”

State assistance for this first phase of the project – with cost estimates being the second phase and construction being the third – was the principle topic of discussion during the meeting with RIDOT. Keiser said that RIDOT has access to federal money for such projects as bike paths, as well as other potential funding streams, including its own discretionary funds.

RIDOT, however, will have to find out which of the money pots – if any – could be tapped without affecting the funding for other projects that are already in the “pipeline.”

“We came in and asked if there was any unbudgeted money available for our particular project,” Keiser said. “RIDOT typically has a two-to-three-year budgeting horizon, and we were hoping to avoid a long wait. Now, they did indicate that, if the town funded the planning and cost estimates on its own, they might be more successful in assisting us with the actual construction because that money would be drawn from different sources. So, if they’re unable to find [$18,500] right now, and we went ahead and prepared the plans and cost estimates, we could submit them to the Department and request a construction grant, and they would try to process the request as an active construction priority.”

Although cost estimates for second and third phases aren’t available, Keiser is confident that a construction grant would be substantially greater than the amount of money necessary for the two planning phases. Asked if it was possible that RIDOT might kick in money for construction as well as planning, Keiser said, “Yes. It’s not an eitheror situation.”

During the meeting, Keiser assured RIDOT that Jamestown was looking for ways to reduce the costs of the project. And, as part of that effort, the town has determined that “we could rely on Public Works Department personnel to do the initial excavation and grading. So, the primary need for [construction] funding would be for laying asphalt and building a bridge over the reservoir spillway.”

Keiser also noted that Lewis and his staff were pleased to learn that the Jamestown bike path project could be easily implemented.

“As Bob Sutton told the Council,” Keiser said, “many bike paths require land takings or negotiations and, in our case, all the land is publicly owned. In addition, many bike path proposals run into public opposition during the planning stages from residents living along the path because they’re concerned about additional traffic – albeit bicycle or pedestrian traffic – coming close to their properties. Again, in our case, private property wouldn’t be affected. So, RIDOT was happy to learn that neither of those issues is associated with our project.”

RIDOT will now launch an effort to identify potential funding sources for bike path planning. Keiser said the department plans to get back to him as soon as possible.

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