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James Kennedy: Reconnect Providence with a real 6/10 Boulevard

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This post was originally written as an Op-Ed submitted to the Providence Journal. It was originally published at Transport Providence and appears here with permission.

James Kennedy is part of the group Moving Together Providence. You can follow him on Twitter at @transportpvd.

RIDOT has dubbed its proposal for a 6/10 Connector Big Dig a “highway-boulevard hybrid”, but the 6/10 Dig is sharply at odds with the Moving Together Providence proposal for a genuine 6/10 Boulevard. Like the “cooler and warmer” scandal that has captured the public’s attention and revulsion, highway-boulevard hybrid is state-government-speak for nonsense. But the mistakes embedded in RIDOT’s 6/10 approach are orders of magnitude more expensive than the $4.5 million Reykjavik excursion, and its failure will stay with us for decades.

It’s pretty obvious why the 6/10 Connector has segregated Silver Lake, Olneyville, and the West End from each other, and not hard to understand how it made Providence’s “second downtown” its poorest neighborhood. Less obvious, but vital, is for suburbanites to understand how RIDOT’s policy fails them, and to join in a statewide movement for a genuine boulevard.

Urban highways funnel traffic and collect it into a few chokepoints, instead of allowing it to disperse naturally. Olneyville has next to no job centers that would draw outsiders, and the neighborhood itself is almost 50% car-free. But 11:30 on a Wednesday in Olneyville Square feels like let-out time for the Newport Jazz Festival. How can a place with so little economic activity and driving be so congested?

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Public workshops on the 6/10 interchange hosted by RIDOT

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Press Release from RIDOT:


RIDOT Announces Public Workshops for 6-10 Interchange Design Options

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today announced a series of public workshops for the reconstruction of the 6-10 interchange as part of a process to reimagine this important transportation infrastructure.

The Route 6-10 Interchange Project has road and bridge elements that have been in design for approximately 30 years. Within the project limits there are seven structurally deficient bridges that need to be addressed immediately. The project, which is of regional significance, consists of addressing structurally deficient bridges and reconfiguring the interchange to accommodate local and regional travel for commuters and businesses.

The Department is committed to meet an April 14 deadline for submission to the Federal Highway Administration’s recently announced FASTLANE grant program. The program, announced on February 26, makes $800 million available for projects of national or regional significance. RIDOT is applying for a $150 million grant for this project.

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195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – March 21, 2016

I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Public Notice of Meeting
A meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2016, beginning at 5 P.M., for the following purposes:

195-roundPublic Session

  1. Welcoming Remarks by Chairperson Joseph Azrack.
  2. Approval of the Minutes of the Commission Meeting held on February 15, 2016.
  3. Executive Director’s Report.
  4. Presentation by Robert Azar, City of Providence Department of Planning, regarding proposed Royal Oaks project on Parcel 8; vote regarding approval of project plan and design.
  5. Presentation of the District’s draft Analysis of Brownfield Cleanup Alternatives(ABCA), and proposed cleanup for Parcel 30 by Fuss & O’Neill.
  6. Presentation by Bonnie Nickerson, City of Providence Department of Planning on the proposed Downtown Enhanced Transit Corridor.
  7. Chairman’s Report/Agenda for March 21, 2016 meeting.
  8. Vote to Adjourn.
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Citizens plans campus in the middle of nowhere

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Rendering of Citizens planned campus in Johnston

On Wednesday, Citizens Financial Group announced their plans to build a corporate campus on a greenfield site in Johnson outside Route 295, while maintaining their current corporate headquarters in Providence.

As reported by WPRI, the 420,000 square foot campus will house 3,200 employees. Construction will start this year with occupancy in 2018.

Rhode Island Public Radio reports the campus will feature an on-site cafeteria, fitness center, and walking paths.

The Providence Journal reports on some financial help Citizens received for the project, notably:

Citizens and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation have agreed to split the $6-million cost to build new exit and entrance ramps onto Route 295, between current exits 6 and 7, where the highway crosses Greenville Avenue. The DOT will pay $3 million, and construction is expected to start in the spring of 2017, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said;

Didn’t we just pass a super-controversial bill to toll trucks because RIDOT can’t afford to maintain what it has now? Now RIDOT is building infrastructure for private development?

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ProJo: R.I. begins moving on RIPTA bus hub project at Providence Amtrak Station

Rhode Island officials have taken the first small step toward building a multimillion-dollar bus hub at the Providence Amtrak Station, potentially as part of a larger real estate project with a private developer.

On Monday, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation Board approved hiring Chicago-based real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle to talk to developers, promote the project and help put together bid documents to seek private investment.

[…]

A memo from Commerce Corporation Senior Project Manager Michael Walker given to the Commerce board described Jones Lang Lasalle’s task as: “…to assist with the outreach to the developer community to identify and promote the development opportunity, structure the data requirements that a successful solicitation will require in order to be favorably received by developers, and to draft the Request for Proposals that [the Department of Transportation] will issue to solicit the private investment in this first-of-a kind transit project in Rhode Island.”

I’m all about public/private partnerships, the land around the station is far too valuable to be just a bus station. And bringing in a private developer to team up on this project is the definition of Transit Oriented Development. But boy do I fear concessions to the developer whittling away at the benefits to transit riders that this project could realize.

Please oh please Rhode Island, don’t f*ck it up!

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News & Notes

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Ljubljana – Photo (cc) Gilad Rom

BuzzFeed News It Will Soon Be More Expensive To Jaywalk Than To Drink And Drive In Nova Scotia

This year the province is upping its fines for jaywalking to $700 for a first offence. It’s $1,272 for a second offence and a whopping $2,422 for a third offence.

[…]

Ultimately, said [Ben] Wedge [chair of the Halifax Cycling Coalition], pedestrians are already careful because they know that they’re the ones who are going to be injured in a collision, not the driver.

“The punishment has to be proportional to the crime committed,” he said.


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ProJo: Work on R.I. routes 6-10 a major undertaking for planners

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According to the bid documents released Friday, the 6-10 “conceptual design” consultant will play a central role in figuring out what the state’s “preferred alternative” for 6-10 reconstruction is before helping secure federal environmental approval and, hopefully, federal grants.

Although a surface boulevard plan for 6-10 is not mentioned specifically in the bid documents, one section requires the consultant to study “the traffic impacts along Route 6-10” based on the addition of transit and “a reduction in capacity,” indicating a possible loss of automobile lanes from the current alignment.

Later it says “pedestrian/bicycle flow will also be calculated at key intersections and corridor segments under the future build scenarios. Both positive and negative impacts on traffic will be identified.” The current highway does not allow pedestrians or bicycles and does not have intersections.


The City is hosting a Community Forum on the 6/10 Connector on March 23rd.

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

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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
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RIFuture.org: Will Providence continue to be a Northeast Corridor rail city?

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Tracks approaching Providence Station

The federal government is considering improvements and changes to train service along the Northeast Corridor rail line that could end up bypassing Providence in favor of Worcester. Here’s how:

NEC FUTURE – a plan for rail investment for the Northeast Corridor,” sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and as their title indicates, is a program to determine a long-term vision and investment program for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), and to provide a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Service Development Plan (SDP) in 2016 in support of that vision. The FRA launched NEC FUTURE in February 2012.

February 16, 2016 will be the last day to make comments on the Tier 1 Draft EIS (DEIS) before NEC FUTURE prepares the final document.


Visit RIFuture.org to continue reading Peter Brassard’s in-depth analysis.

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Politico: Obama to propose $10-a-barrel oil tax

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President Barack Obama is about to unveil an ambitious plan for a “21st century clean transportation system.” And he hopes to fund it with a tax on oil.

Obama aides told POLITICO that when he releases his final budget request next week, the president will propose more than $300 billion worth of investments over the next decade in mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, and other transportation approaches designed to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. To pay for it all, Obama will call for a $10 “fee” on every barrel of oil, a surcharge that would be paid by oil companies but would presumably be passed along to consumers.

There is no real chance that the Republican-controlled Congress will embrace Obama’s grand vision of climate-friendly mobility in an election year—especially after passing a long-stalled bipartisan highway bill just last year—and his aides acknowledge it’s mostly an effort to jump-start a conversation about the future of transportation.

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Strong Towns: From Highway to Boulevard

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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.

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

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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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ProJo: RIPTA turns focus to expansion near Rhode Island Hospital

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Rhode Island Hospital area. Image from Bing Maps

Although RIPTA still expects to create a bus stop or stops at Garrahy, transit planners don’t envision a “hub” or terminal there and actually see more potential for expansion farther south, near Rhode Island Hospital.

“Rhode Island Hospital is a huge ridership area for us,” said Amy Pettine, RIPTA’s executive director of planning. “Garrahy emerged as an opportunity, but with the hospital as a key anchor, we will probably need something further south.”

RIPTA is working with the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority, which is building the Garrahy garage, on determining what kind of mass transit presence makes sense, from a regular stop, to a “super stop” with passenger amenities and a place for drivers to take a break.


We need to consider the 195 Land and the Jewelry District as part of downtown. Operationally, I think it could work out better to have hubs on the periphery of downtown (Train Station Hub and Hospital Hub) rather than one on the edge and one kind of in the middle (Garrahy Garage). Hubs on the edge with routes from north and south converging at them allows for through-routing buses on narrowly defined corridors through downtown, creating corridors with high-frequency service.

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Projo: Providence abandons streetcar plan for new bus line

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Dogged by cost and ridership concerns since it was first proposed nearly 10 years ago by then-Mayor David Cicilline, the proposed streetcar has been abandoned in favor of an “enhanced bus” line along the same route, Providence Planning Director Bonnie Nickerson confirmed Wednesday.

[…]

In a list of future projects the city wants added to the state’s upcoming 10-year transportation plan, the Providence Enhanced Bus Circulator is estimated to cost $20 million.

The proposal asks for $7 million from the state to build the new bus line and uses a $13-million federal grant awarded for the streetcar in 2014 to cover the rest.

[…]

The enhanced bus plan would keep the streetcar’s most recent route: from the Providence train station through downtown and the Jewelry District to Rhode Island Hospital.


I’m sure I have a lot of thoughts and opinions about this which I have neither the time nor the energy to think about right now. However, I wanted to provide a place for others to discuss, one thing to consider when assessing this change in planning is what Providence is asking for in the TIP.

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City of Providence Draft Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) Submission Public Hearing – Today, January 4, 2016

From the City of Providence:


City of Providence Draft Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) Submission available for public review

square-p-01On Monday, January 4, 2016 at 5:30pm, the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development will host a public hearing allowing the general public an opportunity to comment on the municipality’s full Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) submission for federal fiscal years (FFY) 2017 – 2025.

A draft of the City’s full Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) submission for federal fiscal years (FFY) 2017 – 2025 is available for viewing at the front desk of the Department of Planning and Development at 444 Westminster Street, 3rd floor, or online.

The municipality’s TIP submission is a list of transportation projects that are intended to be considered by the State of Rhode Island for implementation using United States Department of Transportation funds. For a transportation project to utilize federal funds it must be included in the TIP. A project’s inclusion in the TIP is a critical step, but it does not represent an allocation of funds, obligation to fund, or grant of funds. Additional information on the TIP process can be found here.

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WPRI: Providence firefighters to offer free rides to residents on New Year’s Eve

Happy New Year’s! Don’t drive drunk!

For the second year in a row, the Providence Fire Fighters IAFF Local 799 will be offering free rides home to anyone in the city on New Year’s Eve.

According to Paul Doughty, the president of the firefighters’ union, the Safe Night service will be offered from 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 31, until 7 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 1.

[…]

For a ride, residents should call (401) 272-7999.


Also, if you’re heading to Boston, check out the T schedules, FREE after 8pm!

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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…

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