Greater City Providence

Patching Patches

Photo by Jef Nickerson

So this is silly, but it doesn’t really bother me all that much and I’ll tell you why.

This is my street, taken from out my window. You can see years and years of various patches and a current patch that doesn’t actually fill a new hole. Further up the street there is a deep lake. Every year the city comes out and patches these holes. At some point, you can’t patch anymore, the street needs rebuilding. This street is clearly at that point.

But. I don’t really care. My street is very minor, one block long and one lane wide (though it has two-way traffic somehow). It is a pretty minor street, but gets a good deal of traffic. And the city has been using it as a detour occasionally during work taking place on Dean Street. The street should be rebuilt, but so should a lot of streets in the city, a lot of streets that are more important and get much more traffic than this one. So with the city and state’s budgets the way they are, I don’t really think my street is a priority.

And as I said before, I kinda like potholes. My street gets traffic, but in the grand scheme of city streets, not that much really. The traffic it does get, tends to move way too fast though. People annoyed by traffic on Atwells speed down my street when they get out of the traffic. And the valets from the Atwells restaurants fly down the street (do you know what valets do with your cars, it is not pretty). So the potholes are working as a traffic calming device, which I like.

What I would really like to see, is the street rebuilt as a woonerf. A woonerf is a Dutch invention whereby a street is built for pedestrians and bikes, and the auto is a guest on the road and has to give way to the other users. Everyone commingles and has to watch for each other. My street as I said, is only one lane wide, and the sidewalks are maybe 3 feet wide. With such sidewalks, no one walks on the sidewalks, everyone walks in the street, so it is in effect, functioning as a woonerf already, though drivers still think that they are in charge of the space.

I’d love the street rebuilt without sidewalks and have visual cues added to show drivers that they must share. The street also has drainage issues. The potholes are so persistent because there is no drainage on the entire block and when it rains, the whole street floods and water stands on it (until it drains into the ground through the potholes). Some small bioswales would help address the drainage issues.

The street needs rebuilding, but I don’t want the city to just come and lay a layer of blacktop over it, that won’t address the speed or drainage issues. If that’s what the city would do, then I say don’t bother, just keep patching the patches and focus on the main arteries that need rebuilding more than my little alley.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.

1 comment

  • Wouldn’t mind seeing those on the streets between Atwells and Broadway. They are low traffic enough so that it wouldn’t terribly impede things.

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