Monday, June 1, 2022
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, members of the Providence City Council, Providence Streets Coalition, Youth in Action, and the City of Providence’s Planning Department today shared progress made on the Providence Great Streets Initiative, specifically highlighting investments made in connecting the Urban Trail Network via improvements on Broad Street and through Via Providence, the City’s new wayfinding system. With more than 33 lane-miles completed or improved citywide since 2017, Broad Street and other essential parts of the Urban Trail Network are improving connectivity and making Providence streets safer, more vibrant, and easier to navigate.
“The City continues to make huge strides in making our streets safe, healthy, and vibrant,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “With improvements to ‘La Broa’ and other streets like it, we are starting to see the bigger picture, how all of the puzzle pieces fit together to create a true network of trails and greenways where community members and visitors can navigate safely using non-car modes of transportation.”
In early June, and after more than four years of community conversations, construction will commence on Broad Street to make it a safer and more accessible place to live, shop, and travel. New curb ramps will be installed at all crosswalks to make them more accessible for walkers, wheelchair users, strollers, and more. The road will also be milled, repaved, and painted with a new, safer traffic pattern, and bus islands, designed to improve service, will replace existing bus stops on the southbound side of Broad Street. Both sides of Broad will still have parking (and space for Chimi trucks). However, south of Peace Street, the southbound parking will shift out from the curb to make space for the protected urban trail. Road space for these changes is being reclaimed from the left turning lane, which is considered a primary cause of crashes and safety issues on Broad Street.
Broad Street is known for being the Southside’s bustling center of small business, culture, and social life but unfortunately, it is also known for having high rates of speeding (35-45% of all vehicles in a recent study) and the most traffic crashes between cars and people walking or biking in all of Providence. In 2020 alone, 363 crashes were reported on Broad Street.
“I am elated to see discussions we started years ago are coming to fruition,” said Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10). “These investments, particularly the redesigns on Broad Street, will make our neighborhoods more accessible for families and residents of all ages, with a true focus on improving public safety.”
Results from polling conducted with 600 registered Providence voters in March 2021 indicates strong support for the Great Streets initiative in general, as well as the Broad Street improvements more specifically. As part of the polling, 70% of the total 600 said they would like to ride a bicycle more often, while 71% of South Providence/West End residents and 78% of Latinx residents said they would like to ride a bicycle more often. Moreover, 87% of the total were in favor of the Broad Street project, while 86% of South Providence/West End residents and 95% of Latinx residents were in favor of the project. A majority (71%) also indicated protective barriers and separated bike lanes would encourage them to bicycle more. In fact, a strong majority of those who identify as Latinx (72%) say the City should have more protected bike lanes.
“Residents in my neighborhoods would like to ride bicycles to school and work, get outside more often and live a more active, healthy lifestyle,” said Councilwoman and Deputy Majority Leader, Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11). “Years of public input made safety a priority and I believe these Great Streets investments will protect riders from vehicle traffic and encourage more biking
From 2017 to 2022, numerous community meetings were held for the project including hosting and participating as guests in traditional public meetings in the surrounding Broad Street neighborhoods, public Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meetings, and virtual public meetings to gather additional feedback and ensure community members are aware of the project. Direct mailings to abutters were also sent out in November 2020, October 2021, and March 2022 to notify residents, property owners, and businesses of the project and upcoming meetings related to it. In all, more than 80 public meetings, stakeholder meetings, and events were held or attended to engage community members in the planning process for Broad Street.
“The Providence Streets Coalition is an alliance of community leaders, businesses and engaged individuals who are working to make Providence streets safer and more accessible to all,” said organizer Liza Burkin. “The project on Broad Street has been years in the making. In that time, we have talked to hundreds of people who live, work and travel here every day. Their feedback has helped us shape a project that makes the changes residents want the most, such as removing the chaotic center turning lane, while also preserving the things that make Broad Street special.”
As the Urban Trail Network takes shape through major connections like Broad, the City is also introducing Via Providence, a new wayfinding system to help navigate connected trails and greenways. Wayfinding signs are expected to be implemented incrementally over the next several years following construction of various segments of the Urban Trail Network, with more than 42% of the planned network already completed or currently under construction citywide. The City plans to install more than 60 wayfinding signs on some segments of the Urban Trail Network beginning in Fall 2022, including along Broad Street, South Water Street, Dean Street, Segment 1A of the Blackstone Bike Path on the City’s East Side, Empire Street, Clifford Street, Pine Street, Friendship Street, and others.
While more than 33 lane-miles have already been completed or improved citywide, there is more work to be done. The City is about to begin community engagement for additional potential segments of the network on the East Side of Providence and will host a public meeting on June 8th, in coordination with the three East Side City Councilors, to hear community feedback about potential neighborhood greenways on several streets there. The City also continues to seek funds through partners such as USDOT to make further safety improvements to city streets as part of the Urban Trail Network and Great Streets Plan.
For more information about Great Streets in Providence, please visit the City’s website.