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News & Notes

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Eddy Street in Providence. Image from Google Street View.

CityLab: Why 12-Foot Traffic Lanes Are Disastrous for Safety and Must Be Replaced Now

Unfortunately, trained to expect this sort of behavior, highway engineers apply the same logic to the design of city streets, where people behave in an entirely different way. On city streets, most drivers ignore posted speed limits, and instead drive the speed at which they feel safe. That speed is set by the cues provided by the environment. Are there other cars near me? Is an intersection approaching? Can I see around that corner? Are there trees and buildings near the road? Are there people walking or biking nearby? And: How wide is my lane?

When lanes are built too wide, pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.
All of these factors matter, and others, too. The simplest one to discuss, and probably the most impactful, is lane width. When lanes are built too wide, many bad things happen. In a sentence: pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don’t fit.

As with most other State and County road departments across the country, RIDOT mostly insists that all roads should strive for 12′ lanes and the Providence DPW does not much disagree.


BuzzFeed News: The Hidden Reason Why Rent Is So Expensive In Cities: Parking Spaces

While many factors contribute to drive up the price of rents, parking is among the most significant, according to University of California Los Angeles professor and renowned parking guru Donald Shoup. BuzzFeed News sat down with Shoup during the CityLab 2014 conference in Los Angeles Monday to talk about how parking makes housing more expensive. His point: “It’s unfair to have cities where parking is free for cars and housing is expensive for people.”


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City Plan Commission Meeting – June 17, 2014

featured-bikeped City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from May 20th meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

City Council Referral

1. Referral No. 3377 – Petition to abandon a portion of Broadway The petitioner is requesting to abandon a portion of the width of Broadway between Dave Gavitt Way and Greene Street adjacent to Plat 75 Lot 460 – for action

Institutional Master Plan

2. Amendment of Brown University’s Institutional Master Plan The applicant is seeking to amend the IMP to reflect the School of Engineering’s expansion, property acquisitions, rehabilitation of the South Street Power Station, changes to parking and improvements to Thayer Street – for action

Public Hearing

PROVIDENCE TOMORROW – The Comprehensive Plan 3. Referral No. 3377 – Changes to the Comprehensive Plan Changes proposed include technical changes based on comments received from statewide planning and changes to the future land use map. Public comment will be taken – for action

Re:Zoning Providence

4. Update on Re: Zoning Providence A review of the organization and content of the draft zoning ordinance – for discussion

Adjournment


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RIFuture.org: Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition: Reclaim our streets for people

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South Main Street at the bus tunnel. Image from Google Street View.

We believe that as proposed, these plans do little to increase access to all users; moreover, the decision to start this work at James Street even as the I-195 Commission has issued specific developer criteria for that stretch of road and riverfront is unfortunate in the extreme. It demonstrates yet again a failure to implement both the city’s and the state’s goals for complete streets and integrated transportation into the actual operations of their agencies.

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Streetfilms: A Montreal Intersection Morphs Into a Wonderful Neighborhood Space

On a Bixi bike excursion to get some ice cream in Montreal, my wife and I stumbled upon the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Rue Clark, recently upgraded with colorful new street furniture, traffic calming treatments, and a two-way protected bike lane. The space is teeming with street life. When you arrive at this lovely place your first instinct is to stop, sit down, and enjoy.

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News & Notes

Detroit - Renaissance Center

Detroit from Canada. Photo (cc) Patricia Drury

Spacing: Converting Alleyways to Livable Laneways and Country Lanes

Asphalt paving was removed and replaced with “structural grass,” rigid plastic honeycomb cells sprinkled with ordinary lawn seed and nurtured into green swaths. Concrete strips were embedded on two sides, creating a durable driving surface. Permeable brick pavers were installed in driveways and at the lane way entrances; these allow rain water to infiltrate between their joints and into the ground, reducing run-off, the bane of municipal storm sewer systems.


Newshour: Will Other U.S. Cities Follow in Detroit’s Footsteps?

Well, I think cities have realized they’re not going to grow their economies by bribing companies to come in[1].

Just as Bruce said, they’re going to build on their own strategic assets, and as specialized as they are — and Bruce knows this — they also to be diverse. Diverse economies grow. But in the United States, the cities and regions that are having trouble are the manufacturing regions that have not revitalized and developed their knowledge assets and diversified.

And Sun Belt regions that are dependent on real estate and construction, our economy is being reshaped around knowledge centers, big and small. Ann Arbor right outside of Detroit is doing fabulously well, and energy centers — and those are becoming the powerhouses of the U.S. regional economy. But there are very real winners and losers in this economy. And for those falling behind, they have to take steps to specialize, to focus on their niche, but also to diversify their economy.

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Video: “Executive Suite” 195 Commission

This week on Executive Suite: Colin Kane, chairman of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, and Jan Brodie, the commission’s newly named executive director.

Kane and Brodie discuss the commission’s role in redeveloping the land, their vision for the area and their estimates of how long it will take to make significant progress. They also tackle questions about the interim use of the land and the possible broader impact on Rhode Island’s economy.

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Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting – May 30, 2013

featured-bikepedMay 30, 2013, 4:30 PM
City Administrative Building
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Agenda

  • 4:30: Welcome and introductions
  • 4:35: City signs and bike locks (guest: Parking Administrator Leo Perrotta)
  • 4:50: Kennedy Plaza redesign: bike and pedestrian elements (guests: Cliff Wood, Bonnie Nickerson)
  • 5:10: Fountain & Sabin streets: bike & ped improvements
  • 5:20: Pedestrian crosswalk signals
  • 5:30: League of American Bicyclists: State ranking; bike-friendly community application (Matt Moritz)
  • 5:40: City bike & ped ordinances: recommendation to the City (Matt Moritz)
  • 5:50: Old Business and Public Comment
Full disclosure: I am a member of this Commission.
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City Plan Commission Meeting – May 21, 2013

featured-bikeped City Plan Commission Meeting
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 – 4:45pm
444 Westminster Street, First Floor

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from April 23, 2013 meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

City Council Referral

1. Referral 3362 – Petition for zone change from R-2 to M-1 at 230 Carolina Ave. Petition to rezone the property at 230 Carolina Ave from R-2 to M-1 subject to the use of the property being restricted to parking – for action (AP 58 lots 704-724, 726 and 730, Washington Park)

2. Referral 3363 – An ordinance in amendment of the Downtown Providence Renewal Official Redevelopment Plan Review of the amendment, which proposes acquisition and redevelopment of the building at 94 Washington Street, for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan – for action (AP 25 Lot 354, Downtown)

The “Narrow Building

3. Referral 3364 – Petition to abandon a portion of Beach Ave. Petition to abandon the portion of Beach Ave along the eastern edge of the property at AP 17 Lot 416 – for action (Fox Point)

Beach Avenue appears to be a paper street which runs along the Seekonk Riverfront from the Gano Street off-ramp from 195 to Fremont Street. Lot 416 sits along Gano Street between the off-ramp and East Transit Street. The existence of that street would allow for public access to the water.

Minor Land Development Project

4. Case No. 13-014 MI – 207 Waterman Street (Preliminary Plan Stage) The applicant is proposing to demolish the existing building to construct a four story (50 feet), 30 unit multifamily development on a lot measuring approximately 11,677 SF. The applicant is proposing to provide 23 internal parking spaces, 45 are required. The development will require dimensional relief from height, parking and density requirements – for action (AP 14 Lot 516, Wayland)

Adjournment

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Joyriders vs. Jaywalkers: U.Va.’s Peter Norton Examines a Collision of Cultures

In 1909, “jaywalker” was an obscure Midwestern colloquial term that referred to a country hick in the city who got in the way of other pedestrians. But with the rise of the automobile, people connected with the auto industry used “jaywalker” to mean a pedestrian who crosses the street against regulations.

“Most people living in cities didn’t think fast cars belonged in streets,” Norton said. “So when cars hit pedestrians, it was always the driver’s fault. Angry city residents wrote letters to their newspapers denouncing ‘joy riders’ and ‘speed demons.’ But some people wanted to give cars a rightful claim to street space. The word ‘jaywalker’ was one way to do this. By casting doubt on pedestrians’ place in the street, it strengthened cars’ claim to street space. Making streets places for cars took not just regulations and devices such as traffic lights — language was also part of the struggle.”

Related to the discussion here.

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Work Begins to rebuild street grid on the Former I-195 Land

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Route 195 under construction, July 2, 1957 – Photo from the RIDOT archives.

Gov. Chafee, Congressional Delegation, Assembly Members, City Officials, Private Sector Leaders Break Ground as Infrastructure Work Commences

Important Step in Readying Land for Responsible, Job-Generating Development

Providence, RI – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee joined members of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation, General Assembly members, state and City of Providence officials, and private sector leaders today to break ground on the next phase of the I-195 relocation project. Infrastructure work has now begun in the footprint of the former I-195 to rebuild the surrounding city streets.

“The work taking place now is a fundamental step toward the responsible, job-generating development of this valuable land, which holds a tremendous potential for economic development here in the capital city,” Governor Chafee said. “By upgrading our infrastructure around these properties, we can attract leaders in high-growth industries to create good jobs here in Rhode Island.”

The $13 million contract with the Cardi Corporation will focus on roadways west of the Providence River. Work will begin with underground utilities, and move on to the streets as spring and summer progress. The goal is to create a more efficient configuration for all modes of transportation, from cars to bikes to pedestrians. Final completion is anticipated in 2014.

“Today marks a significant step forward in the I-195 Commission’s efforts to realize the highest and best use of these parcels of land,” said Chairman Colin P. Kane. “The groundbreaking represents a nearly $50 million investment by the federal government, state, City government and the utility providers to truly create a dynamic Knowledge District reconnected by new city streets, sidewalks, enhanced infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and public parks. All great places are built on strong foundations, and today kicks off the beginning of this foundation. The Commission, working with its partners in the state and City of Providence, together offer a platform for job creation and a flywheel of economic development.”

“We ask that the residents bear with us and be patient while we complete this important work,” Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Michael P. Lewis said. “The result will be an alignment that will better support the city with improved access to the new highway and the neighborhoods nearby.”

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Guest Post: Building streets

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Future Friendship Street

Jewelry District resident Lewis Dana sent us some photos and a bit of snarky commentary to go with them. Enjoy.

I don’t know much about building a new street, either. …

Based on this shot of the continuation of Friendship St., early on you dig large holes, drop in these storm sewer pipes and cover them up with dirt. If all goes well, the sanitary lines go in at the same time. Let everything settle for a year or so.

Then you come back, dig more trenches for water, gas and electric services, back fill them and pave everything over.

Then some wise guy asks, what about telephone and cable? So you send in new teams of workers who barricade the streets, jackhammer trenches through the new macadam, install cable and phone, and patch everything back up.

If you’re being fastidious, you make a smooth job of it. Judging by the bomb cratered condition of Chestnut Street, into which someone sawed a fiberoptic trench about 7 years ago, that is a faint hope. Traces of that havoc remain to this day all along Chestnut, which is not on the Mayor’s 40-million dollar street repair map.

When the dust settles, mostly on everything in our apartment, is it too much to hope that the Grafitti Patrol will stop by and remove the tags with which the contractors have embellished every sidewalk in the neighborhood?

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ProJo: [195] Land panel’s powers debated at redevelopment meeting

Tempers flared at a Route 195 Redevelopment District Commission meeting Monday night over how much control the land panel may ultimately have or whether it’s being asked to cede to the state some control granted to the commission by legislation that created the panel in 2011.

The commission is moving closer to taking control of about 20 developable acres of former highway land, but it did not cast a final vote Monday about whether to proceed with a bond sale that will allow that to happen.

The bond proceeds will pay for the final phase of the $623-million highway-relocation project — knitting together city streets to connect the old highway land with the rest of the city. In financing the highway project, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation pledged a local match to the Federal Highway Administration. The bond sale will raise that money and allow the DOT to transfer control of the land to the commission.

It is hard to sell the land when we haven’t even built the streets and the utilities to it.

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195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – January 14, 2013

A meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at the office of Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on MONDAY, January 14, 2013, beginning at 5:00 p.m., for the following purposes:

I. Public Session

Call to Order: The Chairperson

  1. Welcome by Chairperson: Chairperson Colin Kane.
  2. To approve the public session minutes of the meetings held on November 19, 2012 and December 10, 2012. (Tab 1.)
  3. Engineering and Permitting Status Update.
  4. Briefing by RIDOT on Road Construction Schedule and Contract 15 (East Side) Activities.
  5. Bond and Land Acquisition update, including snow and landscape maintenance contract recommendations/property insurance.
  6. Q1/Q2 Workplan and Action Item Discussion, including market perspective and planning activities.
  7. Legal Activities Discussion (regulatory development, internal policies, etc.).
  8. Executive Director Search Update.
  9. II. Executive Session

    To consider and act upon such matters as may be considered at a meeting closed to the public pursuant to the Open Meetings Law, specifically matters permitted to be so considered under subsection (7), (investment of public funds) of Rhode Island General Laws, Section 42-46-5(a) (the Open Meetings Law).

  10. Schedule and Protocol for Interested Parties.
  11. III. Public Session

  12. Chairman’s Report/Agenda for January 29, 2013 Meeting.
  13. Vote to Adjourn.

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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.

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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.


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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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Letter to the campus from P.C.’s President regarding their PILOT agreement

This letter was sent to the Providence College campus by college president Rev. Brian J. Shanley regarding the college’s agreement with the City to acquire public streets in exchange for payments in lieu of taxes:

A Message to the Providence College Community:

Providence College is, and always has been, mindful of the significant role that the city of Providence plays in the decision our students make to attend this institution. Providence is a vibrant city with rich history, great restaurants, and myriad tourist and cultural attractions. It is both an alluring and attractive setting for our students and their families. As the leaders of all of Providence’s higher education and major healthcare institutions have noted on multiple occasions, a financially sound city of Providence is critical for the continued prosperity of each of our organizations going forward. With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that the College has reached an agreement with the City that will benefit both parties. The College has agreed to pay the City $3.84 million over a 10-year period to purchase portions of three City streets: Huxley Ave., which runs through the eastern end of the College campus, and both Wardlaw Ave. and Cumberland St. which are part of the northwest border of the campus across from Alumni Hall. (Specifically, the College will purchase Huxley Ave. from Eaton St. to Ventura St., Wardlaw Ave. from Lucille St. to Cumberland St., and Cumberland St. from Wardlaw Ave. to the property line at 30 Cumberland St.)

The College proposed the purchase of these streets in response to the City’s request for additional payments in lieu of taxes. As you may know, the City reached similar agreements of mutual benefit with Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Johnson & Wales University earlier this year. Mindful of the City’s willingness to structure these agreements on a quid pro quo basis, and knowing that they were hopeful of striking some type of arrangement with all of the major non-profit institutions in Providence, the College felt this was the appropriate time to seek the purchase of these streets.

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If you could buy a city street, what would you do with it?

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Photo (cc) Marcin Wichary

After Brown University and then RISD made agreements with the City to acquire parts of public streets for private parking in exchange for increased payments in lieu of taxes; GoLocal Providence reports that the City will make an annoucement tomorrow that Providence College has now made a similar agreement.

So all this begs the question, if you could buy a public street, which one would you want to buy and what would you want to do with it?

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City Plan Commission Meeting – November 20, 2012

Notice of Regular Meeting
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 – 4:45pm
Department of Planning and Development
1st Floor Meeting Room
444 Westminster Street, Providence

Opening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Approval of minutes from October 16th 2012 meeting – for action
  • Director’s Report

Minor Subdivision

View Brown Streets in a larger map

1. Case No. 12-047MI – Preliminary Plan Approval for creation of new lots from the abandoned portions of Brown and Benevolent Street The applicant, Brown University, received approval for abandonment of the portion of Benevolent Street between Brown Street and Magee Street and abandonment of Brown Street between Charlesfield and George Streets. The applicant is requesting that new lots be created for both abandonment areas – for action (College Hill)

2. Case No. 12–048MI – Preliminary Plan Approval for creation of new lot from the abandoned portion of Olive Street The applicant, Brown University, received approval for abandonment of the portion of Olive Street between Brown and Thayer Street. The applicant is requesting that a new lot be created for the abandonment area – for action (College Hill)

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