A group of East Bay representatives wants the state to firmly commit to repairing and reopening the two closed bridges on the East Bay Bike Path, and have introduced legislation to do so.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jason Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) and cosponsored by a number of East Bay representatives, would appropriate $20 million to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the purpose of repairing two bridges over rivers in Barrington and Warren, both former railroad bridges that were bicycle- and pedestrian-only until they were closed in 2019 due to structural deterioration.
At the time, the DOT said it would replace the bridges in two years at a cost of $10 million. Now the DOT says the cost will be $25 million, and DOT Director Peter Alviti has publicly questioned the value of repairing them and has instead proposed an “enhanced detour” on the bike path as an alternative.
“The East Bay Bike Path is an essential part of our transportation infrastructure in the East Bay and the state as a whole, and these bridges play no small role in making it so. Bridges that are just for bicyclists and pedestrians guarantee them a safe route over the rivers. There’s a limit to how ‘enhanced’ any detour can be on the busy, bottlenecked Route 114 motorist bridges. These detours are not a long-term solution, and in this case, they are significantly impacting the quality of an important transportation and recreational resource that serves as a key connector for workers, shoppers, tourists and school kidsin our region,” said Representative Knight (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) in a statement.
House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence), who is a co-sponsor, said, “One of the greatest features of the East Bay Bike Path is that, before these bridges closed, it has always been a very safe place for bicyclists and pedestrians where they are not sharing space with vehicles. Failure to repair and reopen the bridges is putting users of the path at risk. Getting the bridges back in safe order is necessary, and it should be done as soon as possible to prevent anyone from getting hurt.”
Said Representative June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), also a cosponsor, “The Department of Transportation must rebuild the bridges on the East Bay Bike Path, not abandon them. Rhode Island has committed to drastically reducing our carbon output, and to do it, we absolutely must invest in active transportation, particularly when it’s as popular, and well-used as the East Bay Bike Path. Repairing the bridges is an important commitment to promoting the bike path as a genuine transportation alternative, and this is an investment that puts our transportation money where our mouth is.”
The legislation (2021-H 6372) was introduced on May 28 and referred to the House Finance Committee. Other cosponsors include Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Rep. Liana Cassar (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown).