From Community Works Rhode Island comes the Elmwood Avenue Enhancement Report . RIDOT has been planning for the rebuilding of Elmwood Avenue, and their proposals were typical RIDOT move as many cars as possible in the least amount of time designs. Community Works and others got out ahead of RIDOT and asked the community what they wanted and came up with this report which incorporates many Complete Streets paradigms and takes into account not just the automobile traffic, but pedestrians, cyclists, school children, open space, and the needs of the residents of the neighborhood.
From Community Works:
As many of you are aware, Community Works Rhode Island has been working with neighbors, elected officials and RIDOT for several years to make sure that the upcoming re-pavement of Elmwood Avenue meets the needs of this community. Starting in 2005, we held numerous public design meetings to create neighborhood-based recommendations for improving Elmwood as our neighborhood main street and historic Avenue. Through our meetings, it became clear that the neighborhood priorities are to make the Avenue a safer place to walk and bike, a more appealing place to do business, and a greener, more accessible route to Roger Williams Park, including “bringing the elms back to Elmwood.”
After much work by our elected officials, especially Senator Juan Pichardo, many neighbors and local organizations and our landscape design consultant L+A Landscape Architecture, we are pleased to release the final report of recommendations that was created out of this lengthy process. This report was delivered to RIDOT this week. Community Works Rhode Island will continue to advocate for the recommendations of the report as RIDOT moves forward with their design process for the Avenue, and asks for your support in distributing the report to the larger community and advocating for the recommendations.
Community Works Rhode Island thanks all of you who participated in the process over the years, and looks forward to continuing to work together to transform Elmwood Avenue.
The report looks at the street as a whole, but divides it into seperate areas with different needs. The southern end is the “Bikeway to the Park” with seperated bike lanes and enhancements to the roadway to slow highspeed traffic and allow for a better environment for cyclists and pedestrians, with an emphasis on making a pleasant experience for people heading to Roger Williams Park.
In the area around the Knight Library and Gilbert Stewart Middle School there is a “Hyper Zone” which makes large scale interventions to slow traffic and increase the safety of children in the area. Techniques such as raised cosswalks, textured pavement, and corner bump outs are recommended.
A pedestrianization scheme is recommended for Columbus Square (the area where Reservoir Avenue splits off Elmwood). Northbound traffic on Reservoir would be diverted to Adelaide Avenue making a right angle intersection with Elmwood instead of the highspeed race to make the green light and merge which happens now (we’ve all done it). Atlantic Avenue, immediately south of the triangular park, would be closed to traffic and pedestrianized, making the park connect to the block to the south and having it now function as a usable public space, and not as a glorified traffic island as it is now. Other pedestrian enhancements are recommended.
As is the case in Olneyville, Elmwood and South Elmwood are neighborhoods with a low level of car ownership and a high level of transit use. The current configuration of Columbus Square is all about the car and even the retail in the area is auto oriented, if not shops that sell things for cars, or sell actual cars, they are shops set back from the street with massive parking lots not at all catering to the many people in the community who arrive on foot. A better pedestrianized Columbus Square will encourage retails to cater to pedestrians and will attract new development that is suitable to the neighborhood.
I encourage you to download the full report and review it for yourself. It is a good template for other street redesigns in the city. If you support the report’s recommendations, especially if you live in the study area, be sure to contact RIDOT and let them know.