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Temporary traffic changes coming, maybe they should be permanent

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The City is instituting some traffic changes for the days following Christmas due to expected high levels of pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area of the Convention Center and Providence Place:

Temporary Traffic Changes Planned for Three Days Following Christmas

PROVIDENCE, RI – To accommodate an anticipated increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic following Christmas Day, the City of Providence has planned traffic changes and increased police details for downtown Providence on Thursday, December 26, Friday, December 27, and Saturday, December 28.

On those three days, from 11AM to 7PM, vehicles will be prohibited from making a left-hand turn onto Francis Street from the I-95 highway ramps. Vehicles will also be prohibited from taking a left-hand turn onto Francis Street from Finance Way.

Vehicles approaching from the I-95 highway ramps will continue east on Memorial Boulevard and be directed to turn left onto Exchange Street, left onto Finance Way, and right onto Francis Street. Vehicles approaching from Finance Way will be directed to turn right onto Francis Street. Pedestrians and drivers should look for message boards and temporary signage.

The temporary traffic changes are planned to accommodate the increased downtown traffic expected for Providence Place Mall, Disney on Ice at the Dunkin Donuts Center, the Providence Rink at the Bank of America City Center, and performances at Providence Performing Arts Center and Trinity Repertory Company.

Thing is, there’s high levels of pedestrian traffic everyday. Is there anything in this traffic diversion which would be instructive for permanent traffic patterns?

I’ve often thought there should be an underpass at Memorial and Francis, but worry that just moves the problem of that intersection down to the already problematic Memorial and Exchange. It does give more room for the traffic to sort itself out from merging off the various highway ramps and entering the city streetgrid. Of course, an underpass is a not inexpensive intervention.

What do you think could be done, on the cheap or through more extreme engineering to improve the Francis/Memorial intersection?

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12 Responses to Temporary traffic changes coming, maybe they should be permanent

  1. ArtInRuins December 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I always thought that the Skybridge should be more accesible. Right now it is counter intuitive to get to the skybridge about a block or more away, in the opposite direction. Would it be so hard to allow people to get there via alternate routes? If the answer is now, then what about two pedestrian bridges from the Marriot to GTECH, and GTECH to the mall? They do it in Las Vegas and other cities with high traffic areas, why not here?

    In NYC, people accept pedestrians as part of the city and part of the traffic. Here is feels like drivers hate pedestrians, otherwise, I’d just say that drivers should be more patient.

  2. Andy December 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    So many ideas! Pedestrian bollards [along curbs], raised medians, better signage, permanent barricades to discourage peds crossing at the wrong side of the intersection. ENFORCE fines for drivers, traffic slowing mechanisms, better lighting, etc.

    Also, traffic cops seem to make it more of a mess if they aren’t abiding by the traffic signals themselves. If we just let the lights do what they’re supposed to and add the above recommendations, it would be a much more pleasant and safer experience. (Intersection at Francis and W. Exchange in front of Omni Hotel and Convention Center included. Peds always crossing at random. We need permanent barricades and bollards to direct folks to the crosswalk and install some flashing yellow lights there as well.).

    @ArtInRuins Should be direct access to the sky-bridge from the ground level outside at the southwest corner of Memorial and Francis near the Omni and include better signage and lighting pointing peds to the various options. With you on all points!

  3. bill December 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Am I the only one who thinks that intersection needs iron pedestrian bridges to by pass the whole walk way debacle? The Westin should push this idea as it would keep a large chunk of the riff-raff from walking through their lobby.

    P.S., I’m a member of the riff-raff.

  4. truthspew December 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    There already IS an underpass that runs right under Francis I believe. It connects to Waterplace park.

  5. Jef Nickerson December 24, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I mean the cars should be put into an underpass.

  6. James December 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    I think the highway should be removed.

    Short of that, it’d be nice to put in a traffic circle or some kind of traffic calming transition before the cars from the highways get to Memorial, so that people can cross on the street right there. I definitely don’t think we should put more barricades to keep people from crossing. That’d cost money. If we’ve got money, it should be spent to further restrain the cars.

    It’s so nuts to even have a cloverleaf highway in the middle of a city.

  7. Ryan December 24, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    “It’s so nuts to even have a cloverleaf highway in the middle of a city.”

    It’s not actually a cloverleaf – it’s a turbine interchange, or if you prefer, a toilet bowl.

    Traffic is flushed through the toilet bowl into the traffic sewer of Memorial, completing the metaphor.

    Completely agree with you that the money we have, if we actually have money, should be spent on traffic calming and complete streets reconfigurations and absolutely not blown on anti-pedestrian barricades.

    Also agree that the highway should have been removed, but cynically, that ship sailed a long time ago, and sailed away a second time when the Big Dig degenerated into the debacle we’ve come to know it as. If Interstate 93 in downtown Boston was too important to just take a wrecking ball to and be done with, there’s absolutely no chance of us here in Providence ever just ripping down 95.

    Even though we probably can’t dispose of the Interstate, however, all the space wasted on the aforementioned toilet bowl interchange can be reclaimed when we get rid of the highway that we do have a sizable chance of just ripping down – Route 10, in its entirety, could be and should be removed. 95 itself would still be a huge DMZ cutting up the city, but getting rid of Route 10 would still be a huge accomplishment for the city and especially for Olneyville and Silver Lake – particularly if at least some of the vacated land is reclaimed for transit.

  8. James December 25, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Oh yeah, I agree. Idealistic though I am, I don’t see 95 leaving us soon (although Princeton, Nj and Jamaica Plain seem to be doing fine without it it, thank you.) But 6 & 10 should both leave, and with them, the need for the huge interchange.

    What I like about a traffic circle is that it can be short term and long term. It’ll still help w/o removing the hwy, but if we ever remove it it’ll still be useful as an interchange.

  9. Andy December 27, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    Any modern and properly organized city has both vehicular traffic calming solutions AND pedestrian enhanced safety infrastructure. Each live in tandem whether we like it or not – its a matter of how well they work together.

    I like the idea of turning more intersections into roundabouts. To maintain a roundabout costs less than servicing signals and is more safe.

    As for I-95. There is a river and train tracks as well as existing streets you’d have to dig under. unfortunately it came and is here to stay. One solution would be to deck parts of it over as suggested in previous plans like in former mayor Cianci’s “Three Cities”.

    6-10 = mess.

  10. James December 31, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Sometimes I like to imagine we’d prepare for climate change by using I-95 as a giant channel for flood water. Or even cooler would be to make it a permanent canal and run boats down it.

    (Not saying that’s practical).

    It’d also be cool someday to just reclaim parts of it for development, and make it much narrower. I imagine one of those desert cities like in Indiana Jones where the buildings are built into the walls of cliffs.

    (Also not saying this is practical).

    But I hope someday we’ll see I-95 go. Here and elsewhere.

  11. Matt January 2, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    i got an idea… all the fancy shops that are in the private security patrolled mall could move to all the empty storefronts in downtown then when the mall is empty just tear it down and build a new train station there.

  12. Tim January 6, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    You could start adding a pedestrian crosswalk on the north side of Francis St. This eliminates the need for there to be a right and wrong way to cross Memorial Blvd. Also add a dedicated pedestrian crossing period to the light rotation instead of forcing people to time their crossings in between turning traffic.

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