2017-03-23 / Front Page

Bicycle path will connect Jamestown, N. Kingstown

Work not expected to begin on bridge project until 2022
BY RYAN GIBBS

Cyclists finally have received the green light to cross the Jamestown bridge.

Through the first wave of grants from the $35 million Green Economy Bond approved by Rhode Islanders in November, $800,000 has been earmarked for a 1.2-mile bike path spanning the West Passage of Narragansett Bay. The entire project will be financed by the bond.

According to Charles St. Martin, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, the project is in its infancy and designs are pending. Ultimately, however, the goal is to provide bicycle access from Jamestown to Boston Neck Road, where it will connect with the existing bike route in North Kingstown.

While nothing is finalized, St. Martin expects re-striping the bridge to accommodate a bicycle route on the two outside lanes, with signs alerting drivers of the new mode of transportation. The striping would expand the width of the shoulders, he said, so the lanes for motor vehicles would have to be narrowed.

St. Martin said the bicycle lanes on the bridge could connect to the town at the Helm Street exit, but nothing has been made official.

“It’s kind of subject to the design,” he said. “At this point, it’s really a signage and striping project.”

Because the bridge is classified as a limited-access highway, riding a bicycle across the span is prohibited. St. Martin was unsure when that discussion will take place, but expects a solution before work is completed. Bicycle access on the bridge also would be primarily for “experienced road cyclists,” he said, not as a family-friendly lane.

Getting bicycles across the bridge is not a new effort. Buddy Croft, executive director of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, said his agency’s board of directors approved the project about a decade ago. They also provided roughly $1 million in seed money.

“We’re elated that the ramp project has moved from the back burner to the front burner,” he said. “That curve is a challenging location on the bridge. With the ramp project, we think it will be a tremendous positive, not only in terms of smooth flow of traffic, but also the safety factor.”

According to Town Planner Lisa Bryer, bicycle access via the Jamestown bridge was one of several projects she proposed to statewide planning in January 2016. The idea, however, dates back even further. Proposals to connect Jamestown to North Kingstown were introduced in 2005, she said, with plans to lead cyclists into the village.

“That was the genesis of the discussion,” Bryer said.

This most recent plan, however, only calls for striping on the bridge, not all the way down North Road to the village.

“It’s really the access on and off the bridge that’s the issue,” she said.

Bryer said connecting Jamestown to the network of bike paths in South County and the West Bay is a “fantastic idea.”

While the endeavor is exciting for cyclists, they will have to wait. St. Martin estimated the project won’t begin until 2022. However, because it will only involve striping and signs, it won’t take long to complete, he added.

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