Ready for a rant?
Work has resumed in earnest on the reconstruction of Dean Street. This is a good thing, Dean is in dire need of a rebuild. But you know I can’t just be happy it is being rebuit, I have to find something to rant about.
So this has been the condition of the intersection of Dean and Atwells all week. Sidewalks are closed on both sides of the road, some lanes are closed at various times, there are holes in the ground, metal grates down, all things that need to be done when one is rebuilding a street, this is all fine. It is the sidewalk closures that get me. When they close travel lanes, detours are set up, lanes are shifted, police officers and flaggers are posted. The sidewalks? Well they are just closed. I’ve had to wander out into the street and hope that I don’t get hit by some construction equipment, or a car, or that I don’t fall into a hole, hoping that an officer or flagger will notice me and give me some indication of what the safest path is or maybe even stop traffic for me to cross.
I’ve already ranted about how the walk lights on Atwells don’t work. So since there are no walk lights, one needs to pay attention to the traffic lights and try to figure out when to cross based on them. Well, the flaggers and officers are now pushing traffic through red lights willy nilly with no regard to the actual color of the light, so this adds to the chaos of trying to navigate this area on foot. If they are not going to regard the lights when they direct traffic, then they should shut the lights off. All week I’ve been walking into the road when the lights indicate I can only to have someone start waving traffic into my path, and into me!
Lest we forget, the “T” in DOT stands for Transportation. It is not the Department of Moving-Cars-From-Place-to-Place-as-Fast-as-We-Can-Disregarding-All-Others. Transportation includes cars, buses, bikes, pedestrians, horses, scooters, wheelchairs, skateboards, mule trains… but every construction project in the state and city is set up as if there were only one mode of transportation on Maudes green Earth, automobiles.
We can see more of this in the Iway work. First there was the walk light fail in Davol Square. Now pedestrians are left scrambling at Wickenden Street.
There’s a crosswalk here yes, but there is no part of the light cycle during which cars are not given the green light to cross this crosswalk, and of course the streets are built like expressways, so the cars race through and assume they have the right of way. Can you blame drivers for thinking this road is theirs and theirs alone? And no, there is no walk light here.
Over at South Main Street and Wickenden Street, where the temporary street grid is in place we have the opposite problem. There’s a walk light, but no sidewalk.
Sure, it takes time to build things, you don’t wave a wand and have streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, walk lights, all the infrastructure in place. But I took that photo on April 23rd; the street was paved and striped, the traffic lights were installed and working, but there is no sidewalk. When I was there on Saturday, it looked exactly the same. The infrastructure for cars was completed tout suite, the infrasturcture for pedestrians… I guess they’ll get to it eventually.
Wait, I’m not done, it isn’t just us walkers, the bikers get shafted too. Over on Bike Providence Eric got RIDOT Director Michael Lewis’ ear and asked about street sweeping in regards to bike safety. Mr. Lewis said state roads are not swept during the winter for two main reasons:
(1) the equipment involved includes a water sprayer; that component freezes up in the winter, so the department basically mothballs the street sweepers between fall and spring, and (2) budget constraints mean that the workers that operate the sweepers (and mowers, etc) in the summer are operating snow removal equipment (and other winter road maintenance stuff) during the winter, so there is no staff available.
So as Eric pointed out, the answer basically comes down to money. Here’s the thing, when it comes to the mobility of automobiles, RIDOT seems to be able to find the money; streets get plowed, bridges get rebuilt just in time for graduations, temporary roads get built in a jiffy, but when it comes to the safety of cyclists, well, that’s not quite in the budget.
Plus, as I already ranted about in the comments section over on Bike Providence, when does this “spring” where the temperatures are above freezing long enough to use street sweeping equipment start? It is 95 degrees today, how does Allens Avenue look? Are workers doing snow removal ALL winter, it only snows every so often. What are they doing when it is not snowing? Mythical “winter road maintenance stuff?”
Barring a biblical flood, RIDOT seems to find a way to keep cars moving (and even during the flood, they were busily pumping water off the highway to get it re-opened ASAP), as the Department of Transportation they should be ensuring that all means of travel are able to make their way around the state at all times.