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

dean-6-10

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.

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Gas leak on Atwells Avenue

Atwells Avenue is closed at Dean Street due to a gas leak. Dean Street appears to still be open to through traffic, but no traffic is being allowed from Dean onto Atwells. Pedestrians are being allowed through, and no evacuations have been ordered.

2013-0208-gas-leak001

2013-0208-gas-leak002

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Dear RIDOT: More lanes do not alleviate congestion

Dean Street

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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The Providence Public un-Safety Complex

I saw this from one of my Facebook friends and headed by to see for myself on the way home from work today.

Snow plowed from the fire truck garage at the Public Safety Complex onto the sidewalks:

Providence Public Safety Complex

Providence Public Safety Complex

Snow piled on the sidewalk at the cruiser parking lot entrance at the Public Safety Complex, sidewalk beyond untouched covered with snow:

Providence Public Safety Complex

Other sidewalks along Dean and Washington Streets that are not city property but that one of the officers in the hundreds of cruisers that drive by here everyday should have noticed and reported as a safety issue:

Dean Street

Both sides of Dean Street, no sidewalk:

Dean Street

You can pay $5 to park for court, but you can’t actually get out of your car and walk to court:

Dean Street

Washington Street across from the Public Safety Complex:

Washington Street

Washington Street bridge over Route 95:

Washington Street

Washington Street

I was mostly impressed with the new administration’s response to this storm. The Mayor was out in the storm, Twittering away Cory Booker-style. And I absolutely am in love with Chafee after the photo opp. of him shoveling his sidewalk, good move Governor.

But the sidewalk situation is really same as it ever was. I’ve received reports that the Westminster and Point Street overpasses are not clear, and the sidewalks at the Cranston Street Armory (state property) are not cleared. There is no way that any tickets can be written for unshoveled sidewalks when the Public Safety Complex looks like this now is there? Seriously, if you get a ticket, feel free to bring one of these photos to court with you to fight it.

The Meteorologists seem to think that this will not be the last big storm we get this season so the new administration should have another chance to get it right. We’ll be watching.

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Dean & Atwells, will we ever get crosswalks?

On the way home this evening I was greeted by sidewalks finally being finished, almost 14 months after they were removed at Atwells Avenue and Dean Street.

Dean & Atwells

Yay, I guess. Would have been nice for them to be finished 3, 4, ten months ago, but whatever. Would have also been nice if there had been a space cleared for pedestrians to walk while the sidewalk is closed. Walking around that car parked illegally too close to the corner, into the traffic lanes, after dark is fine though, I guess. It is not like Atwells is a dangerous street for pedestrians or anything…

Oh, right. Three weeks after Councilman Hassett was struck by a car blocks away, still no crosswalks.

Dean & Atwells

But, but, tonight they started repainting the road lines (yes, they were painted weeks ago, now they are repainting them).

Dean Street

Look closely in that photo, you can see the ghost of a pedestrian’s legs in the street (due to the long exposure). Let me digress about the fact that there is no crosswalk on Dean between Atwells and the Route 6/10 ramps. Want to walk down Spruce Street? Too bad! Dash across 4 lanes of highspeed traffic Frogger style or walk a block out of your way (and then cross 3 or 4 lanes of highspeed traffic in the crosswalk Frogger style).

Dean & Atwells

Sidewalks closed, don’t worry, I’ll walk in the slip lane, I’m sure I’ll be fine.

Well, maybe with the sudden flurry of activity, we’ll get some crosswalks painted.

Dean & Atwells

If a car is parked in a crosswalk, but the city never painted the crosswalk, does the crosswalk make a sound?

UPDATE 11/24: CROSSWALKS!

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Night Shift

Just as I was getting annoyed again that work had stalled here again, a night crew is at work busily removing the brick pavers from Dean Street at Atwells.

Night Work

Night Work

Night Work

Night Work

Night Work

It’s a little loud, but I’m glad work’s happening.

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Dean Street, finally, maybe

Dean Street

The cynic in me has to wonder if the fact that this project started a year ago, has been stagnant all summer, and just got back into gear this week, has anything to do with when the Primary Elections happened.

Literally, all summer we’ve had half done sidewalks, lights that are up but not working, and pothole nation at the Atwells area of Dean Street. The traffic lights went up at the end of June and the only work that has happened all summer since then until this week has been, someone came out and mowed the weeds that had grown in the landscape pits.

Dean Street

So hopefully the street will finally be paved, and maybe we’ll have sidewalks before winter and it is time for me to start ranting about snow removal again.

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GC: Photos – Hot town, summer in the city

In this GC: Photos post I’m sharing my photos, because I’m a little megalomaniacal, don’t you know?

Dean & Federal

3 Gringos

Westminster Crossing

Providence Career & Technical Academy

Central High School

By the next GC: Photos update I will be over my megalomaniacalness and be ready to post some reader submissions. If you’d like your photos featured here, join our Flickr Group and submit them.

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Walk Light!

Walk lights are getting installed at Dean and Atwells, Yay!

It is a little bit sad that I’m so excited about this, I mean, shouldn’t this just be fact? Not some great triumph of urbanism. Oh well.

Now, if we could just get the Dean Street viaduct rebuilt so one could safely walk over it. Baby steps.

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