By KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — Construction on the bike lane and linear park crossing the Washington Bridge that connects Providence and East Providence is winding down. The bridge, closed to bicyclers and pedestrians since July 2012, is on schedule to reopen before the end of the year, according to Rose Amoros, chief public affairs officer for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT).
The Washington Bridge straddles the Seekonk River, carrying traffic on I-195 between Fox Point in Providence and East Providence. The bridge’s bike lane offers easy access to the off-road portion of the East Bay Bike Path and is used by recreational bicyclers and bike commuters. Since the bike lane’s closure, cyclists have had to navigate a 3-mile round-trip detour over the Henderson Bridge, which doesn’t have a bike lane.
Within the footprint of the existing bridge, DOT is building a wider bikeway and linear park. Once open, it’s expected to feature a separate bikeway and walking path, scenic overlooks, park benches, decorative lighting and landscaped planters. The project also has restored the historic, multi-arch granite façade of the Washington Bridge and two operators’ houses from which an original drawbridge was controlled.
“The project is currently trending on budget,” Amoros said. The original budget for the project was about $22 million.
The new linear park will be named the George Redman Linear Park, after the late East Providence resident who was instrumental in making the East Bay Bike Path a reality 25 years ago.
“When construction is done, cyclists will have a vastly different experience riding into Providence,” DOT director Michael P. Lewis said when construction began in 2012. “We eagerly await the reopening of this bridge as not only a first-class bikeway, but as a new park and destination for the city.”
As one section of the East Bay Bike Path is set to reopen, another is scheduled to close. During summer 2015, 11 miles of the popular 14.5-mile bike path, from Independence Park in Bristol to Riverside Square in East Providence, are scheduled to be resurfaced and restriped. The bike path, built from 1987-1992, has become bumpy in places, mostly because tree roots have pushed up the asphalt.
The project is expected to take a month to complete and will require temporary closures of the bike path, according to Amoros. The sequence of the work hasn’t yet been determined, so exact closure information remains unavailable.
“The ultimate goal is to complete the resurfacing as quickly as possible while minimizing the disruption for path users,” Amoros said.
The project is budgeted at $750,000 and will include new signage and milepost markers, according to Amoros. DOT also is working to set aside money in the contract to combat the prolific knotweed along the path, she said.