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What Cheer / What Jeer 2013

We’re running a little late this year but we’re finally ready to run down the What Cheers and What Jeers of 2013.

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WHAT CHEER: South Street Power Station (Maybe)

In 2013 we got another plan to redevelop the moribund South Street Power Station. While numerous plans for the building, which at one point was known as the Dynamo House, have come and gone, this latest plan engenders optimism as Brown University is involved now.

In January the New York Times and then The Brown Daily Herald reported on rumors of the university becoming involved in the project. Then in June Brown announced it’s plans for the building in a letter to the campus community.

Those plans include a home for the long talked about URI/RIC Nursing School, office space for Brown, and some sort of retail component in the former power station building. Brown also has a developer engaged in building a student apartment building in the neighboring parking lot along Point Street and the City is involved in plans for a parking structure across Point Street from that.

The latest news on the project comes from the ProJo just before Christmas with reports that the PRA is considering condemning the building so the project can move forward.

While this could all be looked at as another in a long line of proposals for the building, Brown’s involvement makes this proposal seem more promising. 2014 will show us if this project actually moves forward.

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News & Notes

Flying Into Boston 005 - Tilt Shift v2

Boston. Photo (cc) Kevin Tostado.

→ The Boston Globe: Don’t require more spaces; price curbside ones properly

If you give a valuable resource away for free, the inevitable result is overuse and crowding. In the old Soviet Union, groceries sold eggs and butter at near-free prices, and therefore shoppers faced long lines and empty shelves. In modern Massachusetts, on-street parking is available at low or no cost, and therefore drivers can’t find a parking spot. Low parking costs also ensure there are more drivers congesting the roads.

Small comfort I suppose that even in Boston, residents are aghast at the idea of reduced parking minimums.


→ The Boston Globe: Boston’s population boom speeds up

It’s not just the city proper. If you look at the other New England cities of 50,000 people or more you see that in general, the closer these sizable cities were to Boston, the faster they grew. (An exception: the similarly fast-growing cities along southern Connecticut’s I-95 and commuter rail corridor, which fall into the orbit of New York City.) This is an acceleration of a trend that began in 2000-2010, when Boston grew faster than the rest of New England for the first time in more than a century.

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State to study Garrahy Courthouse Garage. Again.

garrahy-courthouse

Image from Google Maps

Ian Donnis tweeted out a link to the legislation authorizing a new Downtown Garage Commission:


Back in 2005 there was a $20 million proposal to build a garage on this site. Ian Donnis wrote about a similar plan languishing back in 2008 when he was at the Providence Phoenix. And in 2009, then Mayor Cicilline put $47 million in his stimulus wish list for the garage.

The desire for a garage at this site goes back way further than that even. The Providence 1970 plan, written in the early 60′s basically called for Downtown to be ringed with garages just off the highways, then an elevated people mover system would move people around town from the garages. Though the interstate highway that originally prompted this as a location is gone, and an elevated people mover in Providence is a non-starter, the Garrahy Courthouse as a parking garage location lives on.

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Assembly Bill would rename Iway bridge for late architect William Warner

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Iway bridge viewed from the Hurricane Barrier

A bill (H 6029) before the General Assembly would rename the Route 195 Iway bridge over the Providence River for late architect William Warner.

Warner, who passed last summer, is perhaps best known for the napkin sketch that eventually resulted in the relocation of the rivers and the creation of Waterplace Park. Fittingly, Warner also designed the Iway bridge which would take his name.


AN ACT
RELATING TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY – PERMANENT JOINT COMMITTEE ON NAMING ALL NEW BUILDINGS, BRIDGES, EDIFICES, AND OTHER STATE CONSTRUCTIONS

Introduced By: Representative Cale P. Keable
Date Introduced: April 24, 2013
Referred To: House Municipal Government

It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:

SECTION 1. Chapter 22-7.4 of the General Laws entitled “Permanent Joint Committee on Naming All New Buildings, Bridges, Edifices and Other State Constructions” is hereby amended by adding thereto the following section:

22-7.4-119. The William D. Warner Memorial Bridge. – The bridge in the city of Providence known as the I-195 Providence River Bridge, (Bridge #1081), shall hereafter be named and known as the “William D. Warner Memorial Bridge.”

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.
This act would name the I-195 Providence River Bridge the “William D. Warner Memorial Bridge.” This act would take effect upon passage.

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A cornucopia of highway safety bills at House Judiciary – March 5, 2013

Rhode Island State House

The General Assembly House Judiciary Committee will have hearings on the following bills Tuesday, March 5th:


Subject: House Committee on Judiciary Hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the Rise in the House Lounge

HOUSE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
NOTICE OF MEETING
DATE: Tuesday, March 05, 2013
TIME: Rise of the House (around 4:30pm)
PLACE: House Lounge – State House

SCHEDULED FOR HEARING AND/OR CONSIDERATION

House Bill No. 5061pdf

BY Corvese, Malik, Palangio, Ucci, Azzinaro

ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES — PASSING, USING OF LANES, AND RULES OF THE ROAD {LC49/1} (would create additional penalties for motor vehicle violations at intersections and rights-of-way that cause serious bodily injury or death)

01/10/2013 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
03/01/2013 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration


House Bill No. 5101pdf

BY Palumbo

ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES – MISCELLANEOUS RULES {LC322/1} (would prohibit dogs from sitting on the lap of a motor vehicle operator. Any person in violation of such would be subject to fines)

01/16/2013 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
03/01/2013 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration


House Bill No. 5149pdf

BY O’Neill, Gallison, Lally, Amore, Jacquard

ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO MOTOR AND OTHER VEHICLES — MOTOR VEHICLE OFFENSES {LC591/1} (would grant judges and magistrates the authority to prohibit drivers adjudicated of certain motor vehicle offenses from operating a motor vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock system)

01/23/2013 Introduced, referred to House Judiciary
03/01/2013 Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration

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→ Brown Daily Herald: Fee on non-R.I. Brown students proposed

Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence and Johnston, introduced legislation in the General Assembly that would place a $50 fee per semester on every out-of-state student attending Brown, the Rhode Island School of Design and Johnson and Wales University Feb. 14. The money raised from this fee would cover the redevelopment of the land opened up by the relocation of I-195, an area each university included in the fee has expressed interest in acquiring. Carnevale said in a press release he chose to raise funds from these universities because he did not want the state to invest heavily in land that would ultimately benefit “wealthy institutions” more than taxpayers.

“If one of those schools buys some land today, relatively cheap, and sells it five years from now when the area is active and thriving, who will reap the profit? Not the taxpayers,” Carnevale said in the press release.

I’m not prepared at the moment to talk about how damn foolish I think this proposal is, but feel free to discuss amongst yourselves in the comments.

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Guest post: Parking reform should start at the State House

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The State House with a lot less parking. Photo courtesy of the Providence Department of Planning & Development.

Reader James Kennedy writes about reforming parking at the State House. Follow James on Twitter: @TransportPVD.

The State House is a great place to start reforming Providence’s parking crisis. The great map that Jef put up last April shows that the State House contributes considerably to the overwhelming of our downtown space by surface parking.

From the outset, 10% of State House parking lot space should be repurposed as a vegetable and flower garden, which could be run in private-public partnership with the Southside Community Land Trust. Repurposing State House parking will highlight one of the city’s best reasons for optimism, the Land Trust’s Lots for Hope program. Produce from the raised beds could be used to fill food banks around the state, or could be sold at Rhode Island’s farmers’ markets to return a modest revenue boost to the state budget.

The remaining spaces should no longer be free. Legislators and other State House employees should receive a transportation stipend, equal to the amount of money currently being spent on paving a parking spot for them to use. Those who continue to drive to the State House would not lose money, but they will at least be aware that parking is a fiscal choice. But many others will choose to save money by carpooling, taking transit, or biking to the capital. The plan will be revenue neutral to taxpayers, in that it will simply repurpose funds already being spent.

Parking demand will decrease if this plan is put in place, and as it does, the state should gradually remove more spaces to increase the area of the garden. As in Denmark, where cities have committed to remove 2-3% of parking spaces per year to reduce their carbon footprints, the State House could set a per year goal for removal of spots, with the eventual culmination of a parking lot half the size of the current one. The gradual pace of change will allow for other transportation options to be developed.

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What Cheer / What Jeer 2012

It is that time of year for us to take a look back and What Cheer the good and What Jeer the bad.

whatcheer

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.


whatcheer

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.


whatcheer

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.


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General Assembly approves Complete Streets legislation

Rhode Island State House

General Assembly Press Release:

Assembly OKs ‘complete streets’ bill

STATE HOUSE – With passage in the House yesterday, the General Assembly has approved legislation aimed at ensuring future road construction projects are developed with an eye toward the safety and ease of all types of users.

The legislation (2012-S 2131, 2012-H 7352) sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Peter Martin, requires the state to use “complete street” design features in all federal- and state-funded road construction projects, with an eye not only toward motorists, but also bicyclists, public transportation users and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

The goal is to plan streets that encourage people to use healthy, greener transportation modes whenever possible, contributing to their own health as well as the well-being of the environment.

“Cars shouldn’t be the only consideration when public roads are being built. The health and environmental benefits of walking, bicycling and other active modes of transportation are well known, and we should be building our roads in ways that are safe for those activities and encourage people to choose them,” said Senator DiPalma, (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton).

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