It is that time of year for us to take a look back and What Cheer the good and What Jeer the bad.
Work commences on the Washington Bridge Linear Park
It has been in the works for years, but finally RIDOT has started work on the Washington Bridge Linear Park.
Through a $22 million contract, RIDOT will rebuild the remaining section of the original Washington Bridge that carries the existing bikeway and a section of the original highway bridge. In the same footprint will be a much wider bikeway and linear park. It will feature a separate bikeway and walking path, scenic overlooks, park benches, flag poles, decorative lighting and landscaped planters. The project also calls for restoration of the historic, multi-arch granite façade of the Washington Bridge and two operator’s houses from which an original drawbridge was controlled.
When opened, the new linear park will be named the George Redman Linear Park, after the East Providence resident who was instrumental in making the East Bay Bike Path a reality 25 years ago. Redman continues to advocate for bike path development across the state.
Wind Turbines at Fields Point
While they were installed in January, the whole City was speculating when the would finally start spinning. Turns out they wouldn’t start up until October. But now they are finally spinning and adding some environmental goodness to the Providence skyline. Hope we’ll some more.
Overnight parking expansion
While it has been studied endlessly for years (even as the rest of the world seemed to be able to embrace it and not devolve into chaos), in April, overnight parking has finally started spreading throughout the City.
Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission
OK, so I’m a member of this Commission, but that doesn’t mean I can’t cheer its creation. It is early days in our work, but it is important that such a body exists within the City. Never before have pedestrians and cyclists had such direct advocacy straight into the Mayor’s office.
Greater Kennedy Plaza / Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy
This may seem like I’m patting myself on the back here again as I am a member of the Board of the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, but that entails attending meetings and suggesting things and attending events; there is a tireless staff that actually gets the work done.
From storytime in the park, to weekly beer gardens, a large NEA grant that brought public art to the Greater Kennedy Plaza area, food trucks, and the massive FirstWorks Festival, and more, the Plaza has been transformed this year. The momentum to transform what is the heart of the city will continue through 2013 and beyond.
State Complete Streets Legislation
In June, the Assembly passed Complete Streets legislation.
The legislation requires that whenever the state is building or modifying a road, the work must facilitate safe travel by all users, current and projected, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and mobility capabilities. Features of complete street design may include sidewalks, paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, lane striping, bicycle lanes, “share the road” signage, “road diets” narrower lanes to discourage speeding and leave room for pedestrians and bicyclists), roundabouts, crosswalks, pedestrian control signalization, bus pull-outs, curb cuts, raised crosswalks and ramps and traffic-calming measures.
Unfortunately there is some wormy language which weakens the legislation a bit:
The legislation allows common-sense exceptions, such as on interstate highways, where pedestrians and bicyclists are prohibited, and on projects where the space is too limited or costs would be disproportionate to the use such features would likely get.
…so it behooves us all to keep an eye on RIDOT projects to ensure they comply when they should and not try to beg away the commitment.
Assembly Members Gone Wild
When in March State Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio was pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving and refused to take a breathalyzer test, he made it out to be everybody’s fault but his own.
Then there was Senator Ciccone who “after verbally assailing Barrington police officers” in relation to his pal Ruggerio’s arrest, was called “courageous” by Ruggerio when he decided to step down from one committee post as an act of contrition.
The whole affair was sad, embarrassing, and pathetic.
I mean really, there’s not much else left to say on this, but it is certainly one of the biggest jeers of the year.
If there’s any silver lining, at least the implosion of 38 Studios allowed some staffers time to create Fart Cat.
Privatizing public streets for short term gain
As Providence struggled with its economic crisis this year, part of the Mayor’s plan to right the budget was to get further concessions from the non-profits in the form of payments in lieu of taxes (aka PILOT).
One of the first institutions to agree was Brown with the provision that the City would abandon three East Side streets and turn them over to the University. RISD followed up with their own agreement which would also see them receive “semi-exclusive” access to City owned on-street parking spaces. And after insisting they did not want anything from the City and would therefore not make a deal to increase their payments, last month Providence College jumped on the bandwagon agreeing to further payments in exchange for the City abandoning several streets around their campus.
There you have it, some of the highlights and lowlights of 2012. What are your What Cheers and What Jeers and what are you hoping for in 2013?