Archive | 6/10

Community Conversation on the Future of the 6/10 Connector – March 23, 2016


Mayor Jorge Elorza and the American Planning Association of Rhode Island invite you to a community conversation about the future of the 6-10 Connector, featuring a discussion with three national experts who have experience with similar highway projects. This event is free and open to the public.

A Community Conversation About the Future of the 6-10 Connector
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 – 6-8pm
Doorley Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Strong Towns: From Highway to Boulevard


6/10 Connector from the Atwells Avenue overpass

Currently a six lane highway running like a loop off of I-95, the 6/10 Connector goes from Capitol Center through Smith Hill, Federal Hill, Valley, Olneyville, Manton, the West End, Silver Lake, the Upper South Side and Lower South Side, ending back at I-95 in the suburb of Cranston. These are working class and middle class neighborhoods with walkable bones, and the highway goes against its name and disconnects them from one another, ensuring more driving. Many businesses in the poorer neighborhoods of Providence rank high on the per-acre value scale that Joe Minicozzi’s Urban Three developed, but the design flaws imposed on the neighborhoods by decades of RIDOT mistakes do not allow those advantages to show.


The mayor’s administration recently added a 6/10 Boulevard proposal to the “TIP” or Transportation Improvement Plan, for the state. This marks a new milestone in a journey from the boulevard being a wild pipe dream to a proposal that seems likely to happen. Ominously, another version of the project—a complete rebuild of the highway—still is on the TIP. Advocates from Moving Together Providence are working to make sure the boulevard is built and that it does not become a stroad.


ProJo: 6-10 rapid transit plan would draw nearly 4,000 riders, report says

olneyville sq

Olneyville before the construction of the 6/10 Connector

In the report released Jan. 22, VHB estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 people use mass transit to reach downtown Providence from an area south and west of the city and could utilize a 6-10 transit line. The higher end of the estimate, 9,193, came from adding the passengers of 13 current Rhode Island Public Transit Authority lines and the 7,014 figure came from extrapolated census figures.


The additional 3,500 to 4,000 riders VHB estimates would use a new transit line on Routes 6 and 10 was determined by taking these numbers and adding “several percentage points” of higher transit usage to the population within the catchment area.

That all sounds rather, take a guess from this column and take a guess from that column, but OK. It seems like RIPTA needs some input on this. Do existing lines from the south and west get re-routed? Does that allow for better time into the City? Does that attract more ridership? Is there a demand for riders from the south to reach Olneyville without making a transfer in Kennedy Plaza and vice-versa..?

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Very 21st Century

The Proposed 6/10 Interchange Reconstruction will address the deterioration of existing bridges and aims to reduce congestion and improve travel flow from north to west on the roads spanning from Route 6 to Route 10. The proposed project will include work to Route 6 from the Hartford Avenue interchange to north of the Tobey Street overpass, in addition to Route 10 from the Cranston Viaduct to Route 6. The proposed reconstruction will assess nine of 11 deteriorating bridges that are over 50 years old.

And the BRT gets value engineered out in 3… 2…


James Kennedy: Why Routes 6/10 should be redeveloped as a surface boulevard


Overpass on 6/10 Connector inbound. Photo from RIDOT

This post originally appeared on Transport Providence and is reposted with persmission of the author.

My Letter to City Council

To Honorable Councilpersons Aponte, Hassett, Matos, Principe, and Jennings,

I would like to bring a proposal for Rt. 6/10 to your attention. My proposal was #10 on RI NPR’s “Things to Know in Rhode Island” this week, and I hope I can get Council’s attention to discuss it.

The Rt. 6/10 Connector would be best redeveloped as a surface boulevard. The RIDOT proposal for bus lanes is what I call “transit oriented decoration” rather than “transit oriented development” because the bus lanes would remain on a raised or sunken highway, which would mean that meaningful transit service would pass over your wards.

It’s important to have some kind of “express” service for buses, but what makes buses successful is ridership, which allows frequency. We can only get ridership if we allow the dense neighborhoods that 6/10 passes through to get full service, and that means fostering a healthy pedestrian environment with development around the route. A surface boulevard will do that, and a limited-access highway will not.

Bus lanes without a meaningful ridership base and walkable environment will be as unsuccessful as the Wickford Junction Station was, and for the same reasons.

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PBN: Costly bridge work looming


Image from Bing Maps

At an estimated cost of up to $500 million, [the Route 6/Route 10 interchange] is the most expensive unfunded highway construction project on the state’s to-do list and could be one of the toughest to find the resources for.

We need to be thinking beyond replacement.

Asked about the possibility of not rebuilding the interchange or replacing sections of the expressway with surface-level roads, Lewis said elimination was “not workable.”

“It’s just too much a part of the transportation system” to eliminate, Lewis said. “I don’t think there is a transit option that would take care of this need. If [routes] 6 or 10 access was not available, all that traffic would have to go somewhere else and shift to [Interstate 95] and local roads.”


Call San Francisco, ask them about the Embarcadero.


Guest Post: Exit-stential Problems for Federal Hill & Smith Hill


Dean Street interchange with Routes 6/10 center, Federal Hill to the left, Smith Hill to the right.

Reader James Kennedy writes about establishing better non-automobile connections between Federal Hill and Smith Hill. Follow James on Twitter: @TransportPVD.

Providence has too many highways, and I wouldn’t be an opponent of removing some entirely. But if we’re going to have a highway system snake through the city, let’s at least make it useful. The Dean Street exit ramps should be removed, in my opinion, and a multi-modal boulevard should replace the highway-let that the street currently is.

As a bike commuter, I hadn’t really experienced rush hour traffic on Routes 10 & 6 until I had the recent occasion to sit motionless on a school bus with the kids I was transporting from Nathan Bishop Middle School to Del Sesto M.S., for a basketball game. It seemed an oddly short route to have to be taking a highway, I thought, and seeing how traffic was, I thought I’d probably could have gotten the kids faster there on bikes moving down local streets.

The Dean Street exit can’t possibly be doing any motorists any favors. It’s only a stone’s throw from several other exits in Smith Hill, Federal Hill, and Downcity.

When we design a highway, it’s supposed to be fast. With so many exits, we’re encouraging people to use the highway for local travel, and that’s probably a big part of why speeds at rush hour are so slow. If you’re only going from Downcity to Federal Hill, or from Smith Hill to Federal Hill, you don’t need a highway to get you there. The nearest I could possibly imagine someone needing to have an exit on the highway from Downcity would be somewhere near the edge of town along the Cranston border. Having all these tiny little exits scattered everywhere makes the highway useless for it’s stated purpose.

If that was the only problem to having exit ramps on Dean Street, maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal. But the ramps are huge, and eat up prime real estate in Federal Hill that could be developed. With a generous tree sound buffer planted between it and the highway, the remaining land from the former exit could become a new section of historic Federal Hill, designed to be walkable and small business-friendly.

Once, on a whim, my partner and I took Exchange Street from where it intersects with Sabin, to see whether it was a bikeable route. It was beautiful until we got to Dean Street, and then it felt almost like there was nowhere to go. Exchange Street could be carried through this new neighborhood as a bike-friendly route, and bring Federal Hill a tourist-friendly connection to the convention center area.

Providence doesn’t have all that many options for traveling between Smith Hill and Federal Hill, so Dean Street is also a prime target for change because of how important it could be to connect multimodal transportation between the two as yet alienated neighborhoods. Dean Street is wide enough that it could maintain a car connection north-south over the highway, while bus-only lanes and protected bike lanes could be put into a new Dean Street bridge to speed traffic for non-car users.


Dear RIDOT: More lanes do not alleviate congestion


Ramp from 6/10 Connector at Dean Street

I’m not sure if the Q&A on the RIDOT blog is a new feature, or something I’ve missed, but I read this item on April Fool’s Day and have to respond.

A commuter writes in to complain about the light at the top of the Dean Street ramp off the 6/10 Connector. The writer states that the light is remaining green for Dean Street even when no traffic is on Dean Street and the ramp traffic then backs up.

RIDOT responds (emphasis mine):

A: The traffic signal delays you experienced were due to the installation of new traffic signals. Once the project was completed and the vehicle detection function became operational, the department was able to fine tune and coordinate these two closely spaced traffic signals.

The volume of traffic that uses these intersections during the peak hours, however, may push the limits of the existing road’s capacity. Widening the bridge over Routes 6 and 10 and thereby providing more lanes along Dean Street would alleviate the congestion, but is unlikely to occur because of the department’s limited economic resources.

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REBOOT: Olneyville Square


Click image to enlarge

REBOOT is an occasional series of posts on GC:PVD where we identify areas of the city that display poor urbanism and propose ways to improve them. Our interventions may be simple and quite easily realized, or they may at times be grand and possibly take years or decades to complete. Either way, we hope they generate interest and discussion.

As the Iway project winds down, one of the next big planned highway projects in Providence is the Route 6/10 interchange in Olneyville.

Much like the Route 195 relocation, the Olneyville project is necessary due to the age of the structure. The bridges and viaducts have reached the end of their useful lives and need to be replaced. Also, RIDOT seeks to complete the missing connection from Route 10 north to Route 6 west.

Unfortunately, the website RIDOT had set up to explain the different alternatives for this project is no longer active. The basic plan would be to move Route 6 slightly south onto the National Lumber and First Student Bus Properties (which they were not happy about). This would allow the existing viaduct to be torn down and provide room to make that missing north/west connection.

The REBOOT proposed here is more to do with reconnecting Olneyville Square to Federal Hill and the West End, and focuses less on Route 6/10 (though they get extreme makeovers in this plan too). My plan does not create the missing north/west connection, but with some more noodling of the plans, I’m sure it could.

The key to this REBOOT, is closing down Olneyville Square to traffic, and turning it into a pedestrian and transit mall, with some substantial rerouting of area streets to move cars about the area, without moving them through the square. Of course anyone familiar with Olneyville Square will know, currently traffic doesn’t really move through the square very well. I think the technical term is clusterf*ck.

So let’s work through some of the pieces of this plan.

Olneyville Square

As stated, the square proper is closed to traffic, allowing only buses (and eventually streetcars), pedestrians, and bicycles. Some of you old timers may be remembering the pedestrian mall on Westminster Street and will blanche at such an idea. The pedestrianization of Westminster Street didn’t work. Correct, it didn’t, but it may have been an idea before it’s time, and the pressures of suburbanization that were emptying Downcity were just too strong. Olneyville is a different beast though.

As of the 2000 Census, over 40% of the households in Olneyville did not own an automobile. Also, only 3.4% of the people living in Olneyville, work in Olneyville. So these carless people who work outside the neighborhood are much heavier transit users than the city as a whole.

TriMet: MAX and Bus on Portland Mall

Portland, Oregon Transit Mall. Photo (cc) TriMet

Currently the buses get stuck in the same horrendous traffic that everyone else gets stuck in. Removing cars from the square allows the buses to move through the area fast to better service that 40% of households that lack access to a car.

Pedestrianizing the square creates more space for retailers to sell their wares on the sidewalk and creates a much more user friendly business district in the square. The fast and frequent bus service will potentially attract people from other parts of the city allowing Olneyville Square to again become the western retail and business anchor for the city.

The Route 6 Tunnel and the Southern Bypass


Seattle’s Freeway Park, built on a deck over Interstate 5. Photo from the City of Seattle.

In this plan, Route 10 from the south would rise up to the level of Broadway and Westminster and become a surface street. Ramps would allow it to connect to/from Route 6, which would go in a cut below street level which could potentially be covered and developed. This would close the wound that the highway currently creates separating Olneyville Square from the West End.

The existing section of Westminster Street from around about where the Skurvy Dog is to where it currently intersects Broadway would be closed and reserved for bus/bike/ped traffic only. Westminster would be re-routed to a new southerly location and connect to Dike Street, creating a southern bypass of the square to Plainfield Street. A small realignment of Hartford Avenue would allow traffic on this southern bypass to flow directly onto Hartford Avenue, and eventually onto Route 6. All without the current traffic congestion in the square. The realignment of Hartford Avenue requires the taking of a gas station currently at the corner of Hartford and Plainfield.

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