June 12, 2019
The Providence Great Streets Initiative reflects community-based ideas for
traffic calming, safety improvements for people walking and riding bicycles.
PROVIDENCE R.I. – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and the Providence Department of Planning and Development unveiled today a draft master plan for the Providence Great Streets Initiative, which will guide the City’s efforts to ensure every street in Providence is safe, clean, healthy, inclusive and vibrant for everyone.
“In Providence, we’re continuously working to improve our unique quality of life and space that has made us one of the top mid-sized cities in the country,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “The Great Streets Initiative will help better connect our residents and neighborhoods by creating more walkable, mixed use public spaces while encouraging sustainable intermodal transportation options.”
In Spring 2019, the City of Providence hosted a series of neighborhood meetings to gather input on the Providence Great Streets Initiative, during which more than 275 comments were collected from more than 180 attendees about topics ranging from traffic calming to street lighting to bike lanes. Comments and ideas gathered at the neighborhood meetings were then translated into draft recommendations for projects. Since early May, those projects have been available for public view in an online interactive map, where community members can vote on project ideas and provide additional mapped comments. The interactive map will be available until late June 2019.
The Department of Planning and Development has taken initial feedback collected at community meetings and combined with a thorough analysis of crash data and previous traffic calming requests, developed a draft master plan based on feedback of community members who utilize our streets in their everyday lives.
“Based on Providence’s median household income, the average Providence household spends approximately 56% of its total income on housing and transportation costs, well above what is considered to be affordable,” said Director of Special Projects Martina Hagerty. “Reducing household transportation costs by making it safer, easier, and more convenient for people to use lower cost transportation options such as walking, riding bicycles, and public transit is one strategy to help make Providence more affordable for residents.”
In alignment with this effort, the City installed traffic calming measures throughout Providence this summer as part of the City’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a five-year program of planned improvements to public infrastructure in the capital city that allocated $20 million toward roadway repairs in fiscal years ‘18 and ‘19. In total, 26 permanent and 45 temporary traffic calming installations are being placed at locations identified through traffic calming requests with consideration for traffic engineering principles
In order to achieve Great Streets in Providence, improvements need to be made to ensure city streets are safe for all people; are clean, green and sustainable; vibrant and prosperous; and inclusive and welcoming for all residents, visitors and travelers. Examples of Great Streets Improvements include:
- Improvements to make walking safer;
- Improvements to make riding bicycles safer;
- Traffic calming improvements to reduce speeding and cut through traffic; and
- Streetscape and placemaking improvements such as lighting, trash and recycling cans, landscaping, pocket parks and benches.
A central principle of the Great Streets Master Plan is to connect every neighborhood to a complete and intuitive Urban Trail Network that would touch every part of Providence, bringing 93% of residents and 95% of jobs within easy walking distance of the Urban Trail Network. This represents a significant increase compared to the 21% of residents and 37% of jobs within easy walking distance of the existing network. Urban trails are on or off-street paths that are safe, comfortable, and easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities. On busy streets, Urban Trails are fully separated from vehicle traffic. In other instances, off-road trails and paths like the Blackstone Bike Path and the Woonasquatucket River Greenway serve as part of the Urban Trail Network. On smaller neighborhood streets, Urban Trails take the form of “neighborhood greenways” – where a combination of traffic calming and wayfinding provide a consistent, legible, high-comfort experience for people using the trail.
“I am looking forward to learning more about this initiative and the feedback gathered from the community,” said City Council President Sabina Matos. “As a 21st-century city, we need infrastructure that improves the quality of life for our residents and makes our streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike.”
Recommendations included in the draft Master Plan include:
- Specific infrastructure investments in each neighborhood to build toward the community’s vision for a citywide Urban Trail Network that is safe, intuitive and easy to navigate. A few examples of these recommended improvements include:
- Creating an Urban Trail along the Woonasquatucket River between Eagle Square and Downtown to connect Olneyville, Valley, Smith Hill, and Downtown;
- Creating an Urban Trail along Mount Pleasant Avenue between Smith Street and Chalkstone Avenue; and
- Enhancing the accessibility of the Providence Riverwalk and access points to it for people with limited mobility and for people riding bicycles.
- Studying traffic calming interventions in key areas of the City to reduce speeding and make the streets safer. A few examples of these recommended improvements include:
- The area of Hartford north of Hartford Avenue which has seen numerous traffic calming requests in the last several years;
- The neighborhood east of Charles Street where residents expressed concerns about speeding on streets such as Windmill and Ledge; and
- The area between Westminster Street and Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill where residents expressed concerns about speeding and cut-through traffic on multiple streets, including Almy, America, Courtland, Marshall, Sutton, and Vinton streets, and Bainbridge Avenue.
- Changes to intersections to make them safer for people walking and riding bicycles. A few examples of these recommended improvements include changes to the intersections of Olney and North Main Streets, Elmwood and Atlantic Avenues, Hope Street and Blackstone Boulevard, and Westminster Street at Broadway and Valley Street near Olneyville Square.
- Changes to the City’s policies, procedures, and regulations to better align them with the principles of the Great Streets Initiative. A few examples, of the many, of these recommended improvements include
- Amending City ordinances to include fines for parking in or blocking bicycle lanes and shared use paths;
- Modifying the City’s traffic calming procedures and guidelines to be more transparent and predictable and to include new thresholds, criteria, and solutions; and
- Expanding youth bicycle education programming to reach youth in all city recreation centers.
Interested community members can learn more by visiting the City’s Great Streets website at www.providenceri.gov/planning/great-streets.