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State holds Kick-Off event for 6/10 Connector project

Gov. Raimondo at the 6/10 project kick-off event. Photo: RIDOT

RIDOT hosted a kick-off event for the 6/10 Connector project this morning. Press release from RIDOT:


Governor, Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Providence Officials Join RIDOT to Kick Off Long-Awaited 6-10 Interchange Project

Governor Gina Raimondo today joined with U.S. Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti to officially begin work on the 6-10 Interchange.

The 6-10 Interchange rebuild languished for 30 years. Today’s ceremony launched the $410 million project using a design-build approach that will save money and complete the project more quickly than anticipated. During the years of indecision and inaction on this vital highway link, its network of bridges deteriorated to the point where seven of nine bridges were classified as structurally deficient. Temporary supports were installed and millions of dollars spent in a series of repair projects necessary to keep the highway safe and open.

The project commencement ceremony was held at 1 Magnolia Street in Providence directly under the 6-10 Interchange. Other attendees included state senators and representatives, city council members, Federal Highway Administration officials, members of community groups, union representatives, and representatives of 6/10 Constructors, the design-build team composed of companies with deep Rhode Island and New England roots that will deliver the new 6-10 Interchange.

The contract to rebuild the 6-10 Interchange was awarded to joint venture group 6/10 Constructors based on the high score of their technical and financial proposals. The joint venture team led by Barletta Heavy Division, Inc. includes contractors O&G Industries, Inc., D.W. White Construction, Inc. and Aetna Bridge Company. The design team in the joint venture is led by AECOM with key design sub-consultants consisting of VHB, Commonwealth Engineers & Consultants, Inc., Crossman Engineering and McMahon Associates. The joint venture’s proposed cost for the design-build contract is $248 million.

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PBN: RIDOT awards $248M 6-10 Interchange rebuild contract to 6/10 Constructors

Video animation from RIDOT

The group had the lowest construction cost bid for the project at $248 million and the highest scoring technical proposal of any bid.

The 6/10 Constructor bid team includes New England companies, Barletta Heavy Division Inc., O&G Industries Inc., D.W. White Construction Inc. and Aetna Bridge Co.

The proposal was a design-build contract, which RIDOT says reduces the risk of cost overruns by creating a team that consists of both designer and contractor. The multi-faceted team is expected to decrease change orders and design errors.

[…]

RIDOT said that 20 percent of the project design has been completed already. The department expects the design to be ready in one year, with an expected construction completion in the fall of 2023.

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Bike-Share coming to Providence in 2018

Image from JUMP Bikes’ Facebook Page

Press release from the City of Providence:


Providence to Launch JUMP Bikes, New England’s First Electric Bike Share System

400 electric-assist bikes to be available in capital city in summer 2018

Providence, RI- Mayor Jorge Elorza today announced that the City of Providence will launch JUMP Bikes, New England’s first electric bike share system in summer 2018. A contract for a bike share system with 400 JUMP electric-assist bikes (e-bikes) was signed on December 15, 2017.

“A bike share program positions Providence to be a more sustainable, healthier, and fun city for years to come,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Similar programs across the nation have had transformative effects on communities. We are thrilled to be among the first cities in the region to offer these bikes that will allow residents and visitors to explore the capital city in a unique and exciting way.”

JUMP Bikes are owned and operated by Social Bicycles, a Brooklyn, NY based company and one of the most trusted bike share companies with over 12,000 dockless bicycles in over 40 markets including Washington, DC, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Portland, Oregon. The launch is the result of a public-private partnership between Social Bicycles, the City of Providence, and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA).

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ProJo: Long-awaited pedestrian bridge taking shape over Providence River

Photo from RIDOT’s Facebook page

The bridge is expected to be completed by the end of October 2018, said Charles St. Martin, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, the agency in charge of the $16.97-million project.

[…]

The pedestrian bridge now being built on the piers that once carried the highway will eventually connect a nearly 5-acre park on the west side of the river with a nearly 2-acre park to its east. The DOT is responsible for constructing the bridge and parks, among the final elements of the highway realignment.

[…]

The DOT expects to put parks construction out to bid by the end of this year, start work in the spring and conclude the work by summer 2019, St. Martin said.

The new bridge will a key link in the CityWalk project currently under development.

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City Walk Community Meeting – November 28, 2017

From the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development:


Please join the City of Providence Department of Planning and Development for the first community meeting and visioning session for the City Walk Project.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | 6:00PM – 8:00PM
Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad Street
Facebook Event Page

LEARN about the project
SHARE your vision & ideas
DISCOVER ways to stay involved
INFLUENCE the final project

The project will:

  • improve safety for people driving, walking, biking, and taking transit;
  • connect residents from nine Providence neighborhoods to each other and Downtown; and
  • create a unique opportunity to celebrate diversity and culture.

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CommonWealth: Dear Gov. Raimondo: Express trains wrong ask

Providence Station Adam Moss

Ari Ofsevit and James Aloisi write an open letter to Gov. Raimondo in CommonWealth Magazine in response to her call for express commuter rail service between Providence and Boston.

But rather than single express trains serving a few commuters, we respectfully suggest low-cost, common-sense improvements that would benefit everyone.

At our non-profit TransitMatters, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to improve intercity rail in Massachusetts (we will be rolling out a regional rail white paper before the end of the year). We believe that better service is a combination of improved speed and frequency, providing a wider range of benefits in many corridors. The good news is that in the Boston-to-Providence corridor, there are two relatively low-cost steps — high-level platforms and electrification — that the MBTA can take (perhaps with Rhode Island’s help) that would significantly improve service between these two dynamic cities.

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Providence Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – November 6, 2017

Providence Downtown Design Review Committee Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, November 6, 2017 – 4:45 PM
Doorley Municipal Building – 444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

drc-roundOpening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Meeting Minutes of June 12th, July 10th, August 7th, September 11th and October 2, 2017

Old Business

1. DRC Application No. 17.40: Washington Place (Providence Washington Insurance Company Building) – Proposal by the Rhode Island School of Design to construct a new one-story addition on the Steeple Street (north) elevation, and to conduct exterior alterations on the south and east elevations.

Pre-Application Review

2. Downtown Transit Connector (DTC) – Shelter Design – Proposal by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to install ten (10) new bus shelters as part of the DTC project.

Adjournment

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Barry Schiller: It’s time to re-assess that proposed train station bus hub

Do you remember that in 2014 Rhode Islanders approved a vaguely worded $35 million bus hub transit bond? However, at this point, with that much money at stake, I think our state should re-examine the need for the proposed Providence train station area bus hub.

A news report indicated no Boston area developers were interested in leveraging the voter-approved bond money for a public-private partnership in the train station area. I suspect state leaders support for the bus hub project was predicated on drawing that investment, and so maybe now they are less interested. Recall the hub was a Chafee administration initiative that Raimondo, RIDOT Director Alviti, RIPTA Board Chair Kezirian, etc. inherited so they may not be all that committed to implement it. Further, now that it has apparently been deemed too expensive to build over the railroad tracks, the alternative of taking some of the State House lawn has engendered opposition from historic interests and maybe the Capital Center Commission too. In addition there are concerns the roads in the area are already often congested and adding many more buses can make it worse.

However, downtown interests may still want to eliminate or reduce the buses (and the low income people it transports) in Kennedy Plaza and hope a train station bus hub will be an alternative. They seem to have the ear of the Mayor who never much seemed interested in bus transit. Unions and contractors will also tend to favor spending the money on a new bus hub, for the construction jobs.

Though needs of the homeless and downtown business owners are both important, they are secondary to the interests of taxpayers who approved the money for transportation. Bus and rail passengers have nothing to gain from building a new bus hub at the train station. The relatively few transferring to/from trains already have 5 bus lines (50, 55, 56, 57, and R) to connect them to Kennedy Plaza and the bus network, plus a place to wait indoors get information, access to bathrooms, even coffee, at an intermodal facility called the “train station.” We don’t need another building, or to add un-needed buses to the already congested area.

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Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission Meeting – October 18, 2017

Providence Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission
October 18, 2017, 4:45 PM
Doorley Municipal Building, 444 Westminster Street, First Floor, Providence, RI 02903

bpac-roundAgenda

  1. Roll Call
  2. Approval of September 2017 Meeting Minutes (For Action)
  3. Canal Street Improvements – College Hill, Downtown – Ward 12 (For Action) — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has presented plans to the City for improvements to Canal Street between Smith Street and Washington Street. These plans resulted from the Canal Street Road Safety Assessment previously reviewed by the BPAC at its February 2017 meeting. The City seeks comments from the BPAC regarding these changes. This is the second time this project comes before the BPAC, and if approved, the improvements would be implemented in 2018.
  4. Downtown Transit Connector Public Hearing – Downtown, Upper South Providence – Wards 1, 11, and 12 (For Action) — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will present 30% designs for the Downtown Transit Connector project along Exchange Street, Washington Street, Dorrance Street, Dyer Street, and Eddy Street. Improvements include the conversion of some on-street parking to bus-only lanes. In addition to normal BPAC discussion, this will serve as a public hearing regarding the potential removal of parking from portions of the street. This is the second time this project comes before the BPAC, and if approved, the improvements would be implemented in 2018.
  5. Announcements and Staff Updates (For Discussion)
  6. Adjournment
Full Disclosure: I am a member of this Commission.
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CNNtech: How Seattle morphed from bikeshare failure to industry leader in five months

Cyclists riding on a cycletrack in Downtown Seattle. Photo Seattle Department of Transportation

Fewer than five months ago, Seattle shut down its struggling municipal bikeshare system that had been propped up with taxpayer dollars. But in the last month, three innovative bikeshare companies have launched in the city, quickly eclipsing the past failure.

There are more bikes available, and more rides being taken. The price of a single ride — $1 — isn’t only cheaper — it’s the lowest price of any bikeshare system in a major U.S. city. The city government will be receiving substantially more data on these bike trips, to better plan local transportation. By year’s end, Seattle is on pace to have the U.S.’s largest bikeshare network. And all of this happened without a penny of taxpayer funding.

“The city has turned what was an abysmal failure into a huge success story just within a matter of months,” Tom Fucoloro, editor of the Seattle Bike Blog, told CNN. “Seattle is the gateway to the U.S. on bikeshare. A lot of other cities are looking at Seattle and watching.”

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WPRI: Bike-share service coming to Providence

Image from Social Bicycles’ blog

City Councilman Bryan Principe, who represents Ward 13, will introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s council meeting that would authorize the Elorza administration to enter into a five-year $400,000 contract with Social Bicycles, a well-known company that will oversee the “implementation, management, and operation” of the bike-share service.

[…]

The bikes will be located at 40 stations near the Downtown Transit Connector, which will run from Capital Center through downtown to the Rhode Island Hospital area. Other stations will be placed in Fox Point, College Hill and portions of the West End and Federal Hill, according to the RFP.

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Providence Downtown Design Review Committee Meeting – October 2, 2017

Providence Downtown Design Review Committee – Notice of Regular Meeting
Monday, October 2, 2017 – 4:45pm
Doorley Municipal Building
444 Westminster Street, 1st Floor Conference Room Providence, RI 02903

drc-roundOpening Session

  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Meeting Minutes of June 12, 2017, July 10, 2017, August 7, 2017 and September 11, 2017

New Business

1. DRC Application No. 17.38: 259 Weybosset Street (Commercial Structure) – Proposal by Weybosset, LLC to modify the existing storefronts and to create new window openings on the Snow Street (west) elevation.

2. DRC Application No. 17.40: Washington Place (Providence Washington Insurance Company Building) – Proposal by the Rhode Island School of Design to construct a new one-story addition on the Steeple Street (north) elevation, and to conduct exterior alterations on the south and east elevations.

Pre-Application Review

3. Downtown Transit Connector (DTC) ? Shelter Design – Proposal by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to install ten (10) new bus shelters as part of the DTC project. This item is to discuss the new shelter design only. No action will be taken by the DRC at this meeting.

Adjournment

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Mayor Elorza vetos City Council Resolution regarding bike lanes

Mayor Elorza speaking at ribbon-cutting of Fountain Street bike lane in November 2016

Last week the Providence City Council passed a Resolution calling for, “full traffic impact and economic impact studies prior to deciding whether to construct new bicycle lanes.”

Bicycle and transportation advocates, along with the Mayor and at least 5 members of the Council hold that these studies would out unnecessary expense in the way of expanding bicycle infrastructure within the city. The Mayor vetoed the Resolution.

From the Mayor:

I vetoed the Providence City Council’s resolution regarding bike lane planning because it sends the wrong message about bicycle and pedestrian safety here in Providence. We support Complete Streets here in our city, meaning that our infrastructure is designed and operated for safe access for all users, of all abilities. We will continue to engage the community in these decisions and we remain committed to working with the Councilmembers to address any concerns they have heard from constituents.

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What the Amazon Headquarters Beauty Contest can teach us about Economic Development

This article has been cross-posted from Strong RI with permission.

The economic development world is all abuzz with last week’s news that Amazon is courting cities for a second headquarters that will match their current, in Seattle, with 50,000 employees and over 8 million square feet of office space. To no one’s surprise, the State of Rhode Island has declared its intention to submit a proposal to lure Amazon’s new offices and tens of thousands of highly paid workers.

Let’s first acknowledge that Rhode Island and Providence aren’t going to win this competition. A quick read-through of the Amazon RFP and a bit of reflection on the recent move of GE to Boston and Amazon’s current headquarters in urban Seattle and it’s clear that the Providence metro area doesn’t have the scale, employment base, public transportation system or any number of other requirements of the proposal. The State and City will no doubt offer a generous package of incentives. But so will dozens of other cities—cities that are larger, with faster growing populations of young college graduates, rapidly improving transit systems, superior bike infrastructure, and urban placemaking projects galore.

But this post isn’t about being negative. I get that the state has to respond to something like this, so I’m not going to dwell on whether that’s a good use of resources. I’m more interested in what this Amazon mega-RFP can teach us about what we need to be doing as a city and state if we want to grow our economy in the 21st century.

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RIPTA open house on proposed Downtown Providence service changes – September 11, 2017

Kennedy Plaza, Image from RIPTA.

Press Release from RIPTA:


RIPTA to Hold Open House to Discuss Future Changes to Improve Downtown Providence Bus Service

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is considering changes to improve bus service in downtown Providence and is inviting the public to provide input. Future service changes are being planned in order to maximize opportunities that will be created by upcoming capital investments including the Downtown Transit Connector (DTC) and the Providence Intermodal Transportation Center (PITC). RIPTA is hosting an open house on Monday, September 11, 2017, 4:30PM – 6:00PM at the Providence Foundation, 30 Exchange Terrace, Providence. The public is welcome to drop in anytime during this session.

RIPTA is considering service options that will best serve passengers who live and work in greater downtown Providence, including areas such as Capital Center, the Jewelry District and the Hospital District. Some of the improvements the transit authority is considering include:

  • More direct service to more locations, which will reduce the number of transfers needed by passengers.
  • Reduction of travel times in key areas.
  • Less reliance on Kennedy Plaza as a primary location for transit connections.
  • Expanding more routes to the Providence Amtrak Train Station to provide more direct bus-rail connections.
  • Making transit more “user friendly” to downtown residents and workers through the creation of a high frequency transit corridor from the Train Station to Rhode Island Hospital.
  • Maximizing customer convenience at Kennedy Plaza to support the City’s vision to consolidate bus travel on Washington Street, making it a two-way, transit-only road.
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PBN: The state’s 2012 bet on commuter-rail service has yet to pay off. Is it time to privatize?

Wickford Junction Station, image from RIDOT.

“We started a few months ago, doing a deep dive looking into what the MBTA can do, what it can’t do and why,” [RIDOT Director Peter] Alviti said. “Peak periods [are] quite a challenge for them to be able to give us more frequency during rush hours.”

The constriction relates to the design of the MBTA hub at South Station in Boston, according to Devine. It becomes a choke point during rush hours. “Without an expansion in additional capacity and trackage there, it really limits increasing the trains [to Rhode Island], particularly in the peak period,” he said.

Taking over the services themselves, however, would allow RIDOT to contract out the operations to a company that only has to cycle between Wickford Junction and Providence, and which might allow for future expansion.

The article goes on to discuss the need to add housing to the stop at Wickford Junction to provide a built-in client base for the service (true TOD, not a Home Depot and a Walmart) and also the potential for service to Quonset, which is an expanding jobs center.

We’re not going to tear down the $40 million station at Wickford Junction, so how do we make it work?

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R.I. economy needs investment in modern and efficient transportation infrastructure

Train Station at T.F. Green Airport, photo from RIDOT

Last week, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced that, from July through the end of the year, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail service will be free for people traveling within the state. The intention of the pilot program is to attract new riders who, in theory, will then realize the convenience of the rail line and continue to utilize it in the future. However, unless you are commuting to and from Boston, commuter rail service in Rhode Island is not very useful. Despite offering three MBTA stations in the state, service proves to be infrequent and unreliable. Lack of coordinated policy in solving transportation problems is a major cause. Large expenditures for highways and extending MBTA service to South County, albeit solving some traffic problems, have failed to eliminate growing traffic congestion throughout the Providence metropolitan area. If some action is not taken, rising immobility may erode the basic economic fiber of the state.

To become more economically independent from Boston and promote more local sustainable development, Rhode Island must develop a stronger public transit system. For example, looking to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor connecting Providence with Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., it is one of the region’s most important transportation arteries. Yet, most Rhode Islanders associate the route only with long-distance commuting, which is an unfortunate association falling far short of its full potential.

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