George Washington Bridge Closed for 2 years

As many have already probably found, or read elsewhere, starting on July 9th, 2012, RIDOT is finally beginning working on the George Washington Bridge connector of the East Bay Bike Path.  This project will widen the barely 3 foot wide sidewalk in to the George Redman Linear Park.

Unfortunately, despite many conversations with RIDOT and attempts on the part of many RIBIKE members and others, RIDOT has chosen NOT to provide a signed detour or suggest alternates beyond the statement that the Henderson Bridge has bike lanes which they only recommend for experienced bicycle users.  Equally inscrutable is the map that RIDOT has prepared, which highlights all of the RIPTA routes that cross the Henderson and Washington Bridges, but does not indicate any location where those buses can be caught near either end of the bridge.

We have already commented directly to RIDOT staff about the lack of accommodation for bridge users during the construction, and that advance notice of the closure was limited to press release 2 days prior during a holiday week.    As of Saturday July 7th, no signs were present at either end of the bridge indicating imminent closure.  As of Monday evening posters are mounted on the bulletin boards at either end of the bridge, but we believe that the signage that is being provided is inadequate and unhelpful, as it is in locations that aren’t obvious, especially on the Providence side of the bridge where the bulletin board is flush with the side of the bridge piers about 30 feet from the now closed ramp and stairway entrances.

Map of RIPTA alternatives to the bridge sidewalk.

To RIDOT’s credit, saying that the Henderson is only suggested for experienced cyclists reads as an outright admission that they understand the bike lanes on that bridge to be sub-standard and hazardous, perhaps also recognizing that high traffic speeds and multiple lane crossings required by some bicycle users put those road users at risk.  They have promised to have the lanes swept more frequently, every 2 weeks.

When going to get photos (to be uploaded soon), I met a rider who was started by the fence and cones and had no idea how to get over the Henderson Bridge on a bicycle and didn’t notice the sign until I pointed it out, but the sign wouldn’t have helped since it doesn’t indicate any bicycle route, and contains far too much detail to be useful without already knowing the area.

We are still trying to work with RIDOT, RIPTA and others to get better information available at the bridge sites, as well as improving the options available.  We know of many bicycle commuters who are impacted by this change who may go back to commuting by car to avoid the extra distance or poor conditions on the Henderson Bridge.

Below is my attempt to assist those who want to use their bicycles solely to continue their commute.  This may look familiar to many from the last time the bridge was closed, during the construction of the I-195 replacement bridge several years ago.   I have also attempted to mark locations on the map of bus stops near each of the terminators of the bridge.  For west bound, many easy options exist with the Route 32 and 34 buses using Warren and Veterans Parkway.  For those trying to travel east bound, there aren’t any options close to the Washington bridge, requiring instead to travel north to Waterman, or to South Water Street to catch buses just before they cross bridges.   Suggestions for updates to this map are welcome, please post in the comments.


View Washington Bridge Detours in a larger map

I’ve also started a photo gallery to collect construction photos.

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25 comments on “George Washington Bridge Closed for 2 years

  1. Labann says:

    Had to rub both eyes, but, yes, Hinderson's shoulder was swept, probably in response to advocacy pleas. It's the 1st time I can recall not seeing loads of broken glass, sand and shards. Some cretin dropped a plastic drink bottle about halfway across., and there are still those raised plates across expansion joints (better than nothing), but, indeed, congratulations are in order. Thank you, PDPW and Office of Mayor Angel Taveras. Heaven sent.

    Sweeper went as far as Massasoit Avenue and Merril, then reversed direction. East Providence got a little free coverage; don't think they mind considering both Providences are bankrupt.

    Seldom use George Washington anymore, but did last Friday. Gano Street, glass strewn, narrow crossing, switchback ladder, and steep climb discourage, Ought to improve its approaches while they're at it.

    • ribicycle says:

      Actually, it’s RIDOT who took care of sweeping the Hendersen. They have agreed to continue doing so for the duration of the linear park construction.

    • MattMoritz says:

      The switchback ramp is not part of the end design for the linear park, the path is meant to slope down and curve into the gully beside the hotel aligned for a straight path into the tunnel under India Street.

  2. Timmons Roberts says:

    First of all, my acknowledgement and thanks to all who have been working on these issues for years. We have all benefited from the dogged advocacy of a few.

    I want to support the outrage on this two year closure without an viable alternative. There needs to be a marked bike route both to downtown Providence and for going north to meet the Blackstone River Bikeway. Both can cross the Henderson Bridge, but bikers need to be helped with frequent, clear, orange detour signs.

    I was on the Henderson bridge two nights ago and the bike lane was a mess, so glad to hear that's been swept. But our expectations are too low if that's all we can ask for/get. The sidewalks on that bridge are bikeable, but not safe. Some bikers (with children, e.g.) will want to use those, and probably should be helped in finding the safest ways to reach them. Also, the hazards on the sidewalks could be addressed fairly easily (broken old lamppost bases, cracks, etc.).

    However I have been here three years and always wondered why there wasn't a real bike PATH (not just lanes, as on Blackstone Blvd) along the old railroad tracks on the east side of the Seekonk in East Prov. A few people have told me it's because they were in use in the 1990s when the East Bay path was being planned. Well, they are not being used now (for many years now), and much of that shore of the river is a no-man's land of dirt-bikes and fishing detritus. There are long, straight, wooded, flat railroad beds just crying out for a bike path. This is a long term issue, clearly, but could there be a new look at extending the Blackstone River Bikeway south on that east side of the Seekonk (which is really the Blackstone) to reach the East Bay Bike Path? That new road being built from just below the Henderson Bridge to the new Tockwotten Home (currently, the Tyvek Center) could at least have a marked Bike route on it.

    Again, my sincere acknowledgement and thanks to all who have been working on these issues for years.

    • MattMoritz says:

      We're working on getting a detour sign/flyer posted at the bridge ends to assist with routing. After the annual meting on Monday, we discussed ideas on what improvements to ask for to make the Henderson more usable and to provide a better alternative to travelling an extra 2 miles for walkers/riders needing to cross that bridge. During that discussion, we did talk about that rail line. The general feeling was that it had sort of fallen off the radar and wasn't a priority for East Providence to develop (reinforced by their choice to turn it into a street to spur economic development in the waterfront between the bridges).

  3. Labann says:

    I've always been opposed to the George Washington Bridge bikeway, when they could've fixed the Bold Point RR bridge from India Park to Bold Point (right next to beginning of EBBP) for a small fraction. A viable short term alternative would be a small ferry across that point, similar to one on Martha's Vineyard connecting Menemsha to Aquinnah (Gay Head) at North Rd. At @ $35K/year It would pay for itself in avoidances of detour signage and improvements and would potentially break even with small tolls. On Martha's Vineyard, cyclists and pedestrians would rather pay a buck and wait than ride/walk all the way 'round Chillmark on State Rd.

    • MattMoritz says:

      I'd suspect that turning the RR bridge would still be a significantly expensive project that would have to have been funded through the 4-year TIP process instead of being included in the Washington Bridge replacement contract. I assume you are talking about the railroad drawbridge that connects Gano Park and some random shoreline location, not India Point Park and Bold Point?

  4. Matt R says:

    I've created a quick and dirty detour map It is geared toward the recreational biker and avoids busy roads as much as possible. Download/view it from my Dropbox account here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jiyoljvs4aly952/rL5V54

  5. Labann says:

    Well, it's really happening. This morning workmen were torching off metal railings between proposed bikeway and former pedestrian walkway. At the pace slew of workmen were progressing, maybe they'll be done faster. After all, it's not a heavy duty project for motor vehicles, but only a light duty installation for self propellers, similar to bike paths, miles of which seem to go in overnight once they actually start working.

    Once it reopens, though, you'll still have to breathe fumes from 8 lanes of dinoburners. If they had repaired Bold Point Bridge far below and South of highway, say as a draw or twist span, neither bicyclists or boaters would be inconvenienced. Sounds like my proposal would cost more than simply repaving a segment of existing highway, but the actual estimate for Geowashway is $35 million. Any one of a dozen bridges redecked for Blackstone or WSBP costs a small fraction of that.

  6. Labann says:

    All the metal is gone from north side of Geowash catwalk. Believe it was aluminum. Wondering who gets that valuable scrap. Meanwhile, debris and glass slowly returning to Hinderson. Drinking drivers love to smash bottles against concrete structures; maybe they ought to set up target areas, then keep swept.

    To amplify Tim's comment, new bridge replacing Brightman, US-6, in Fall River has both a pedestrians sidewalk and a separate bikeway on opposite sides. Bridge on I-95 over CT River has a double-wide bike-ped facility. RI's I-way has nothing at all, despite Allens Ave bikelanes and EBBP flanking both sides.

    They will begin work shortly on the I-95 Viaduct, a $165 million restoration of I-95 N-S past PPM. I can guarantee there's not one bike-ped consideration in those plans. Minimum would be a new underpass between downtown and Promenade bike lanes. Instead they'll probably pinch that off for the duration. Plan to climb Federal or Smith Hill instead. Luckily, I'm seldom forced to go that way. Unfortunately, I do use Point Street Bridge and Wickenden St, which have become increasing difficult to traverse. Bridge does have a wide sidewalk, but approaches are impaired, so you're forced to share a lane, especially Westbound, and where underpass used to be now forces you through highway access and still hasn't been repaved, more like a small moonscape with craters of various sizes. All the more reason I-way should have had a segregated bikeway. Not that Allens Ave is bike friendly with its disappearing bike lanes and unused train tracks running at bad angles, it's marginally better than that underpass on Eddy St where drivers coming off new exit in front of RI Hospital turn right at redlight and take you out totally blindsided. It's only a matter of when as to someone getting killed there… fine road design.

    Given this disrespect, I usually shoot through downtown and trudge up College Hill to "Hinder"-son to cross Seekonk River, but I'm guessing people who don't have muscular 24" thighs are more likely to give up trying.

  7. p2johns says:

    Is there a reason why the old one lane for bikes on the Washington bridge couldn't have remained open while they worked on the expanded section?

    • MattMoritz says:

      There are 2 explanations that have been given.

      The first is safety of moving people through an active work zone. The east providence approach is where equipment is being moved into and out of the zone. This is also the explanation used for closing for 2 years and not allowing it to be opened during time when no construction is scheduled.

      The second is that because of the way the project is being executed, the existing decking is being entirely removed so that the concrete of the vaults can be stabilized against further deterioration.

  8. Labann says:

    The wall is down between roadbed and walkway. There are gaping holes into which even cars would plummet to the river. Workmen staged materials and tools on old walkway surface and use it to walk back and forth. There's no way cyclists could share that space. A small ferry between Bold and India Points would serve as a detour, although with all the ferries sinking lately, hard surfaces appeal.

  9. Labann says:

    I swear the only people who read these comments are advocates and our RIDOT angel, Steve Church. Henderson got another sweep early this morning, probably on account of grousing here. Hardly recognize shoulder anymore. If only they could do something about rough pavement at on-ramp from Waterman Ave, which you hit about about 30 mph… but wait until an alternative route exists! They could make that sidewalk that pokes through fence to River Rd bike friendlier with some temporary ramps up the curbs if they wanted to fix roadbed.

  10. MattMoritz says:

    They also need to get out a landscaping crew to clear the sidewalks of debris and trim back the vegetation overgrowing the massasoit south ramp. Several people I know are using the sidewalks. As I understand it they are doing so to avoid the less than optimal bike lanes because of the expansion joint covers that were installed a couple of years ago. They also aren't comfortable with the high speed (frequently 50+mph) at their elbows and the multiple lane crossings required to get into and stay in the bike lane.

    Why is this bridge designed like a highway? does traffic volume EVER warrant 2 lanes each direction?

  11. Labann says:

    Matt brings up an interesting discussion. It replaced the old US-6 interstate Red Bridge, supposedly an improvement. Never really materialized as a segment of a major highway, though.

    Many cities are reconsidering impact of huge viaducts. Obviously, you need bridges to cross rivers, but sometimes it seems road designers forget how elevated roads close transit between intercity points, create unintentional red lines, curtial small business opportunities, and destroy neighborhoods. A great example is the I-95 Viaduct, which will soon be undergoing another $200 million overhaul yet will remain segregated space only for flowing interstate, not local, traffic. In places like San Francisco, such viaducts were successfully returned to multiuse surface arteries.

    Henderson funnels traffic between Broadway and Wayland Square business districts, traffic knots, so fails as a highway relieving pressure from I-195, especially since bridge on Broadway closed.

  12. Labann says:

    Each time I commute past GeoWash, I notice a lot of work being done. Looks like the catwalk/sidewalk will be a memory, as part of it has already been demolished. Hope there's some budget for cleaning grafitti off historic bronze plaques, not that motorists can read them, but bicyclists and pedestrians will enjoy stories contained therein. Intend on revisiting this topic as months progress.

  13. Mark Dieterich says:

    Each time I commute past GeoWash, I notice a lot of work being done.

    Me too and I'm happy to see it. Last time the bridge was closed down for an extended period, NOTHING was done. At least this time around, work is being started right away!

    Hope there's some budget for cleaning grafitti off historic bronze plaques.

    My understanding is that these structures will be restored as part of the work. How long the graffiti stays off them is anyone's guess though.

  14. Labann says:

    Gave it a few weeks, but progress on GeoWash is all but halted. Too bad, since Summer is coming to a close and Winter coming all too soon.

    Nowhere do I see plans for surveillance cameras. At the rate taggers are vandalizing construction site, can't imagine they'll be able to keep linear park respectably representing state's residents. Plus I'm wondering about RI's Percent for Art law, which applies on all publicly funded projects; with a budget of $25 -40 million, shouldn't we expect at least $250,000 to go to art or sculpture? Why hasn't RISCA opened a competition? I know artists and sculptors who would be eager to apply, but you know certain favorites will be chosen.

    It seems federal and state officials can break laws indiscriminately; how do they expect to set a good example?

  15. Labann says:

    Because Washington catwalk is closed, I'm forced to ride though Rumford. Not only is Pawtucket Avenue hazardous to cyclists' health, side streets are full of dogs forcing you out onto it. They should bring back public caning and stocks for anyone who lets their rotties play in streets and terrorize neighbors. It is a sure sign that society id devolving when people believe they need attack dogs bred to herd cattle in their urban neighboorhood where cattle are rightly not allowed.

  16. Labann says:

    Much like progress on GeoWash, this site is dead. Advocacy gets a booster shot every May, and that seems to be it for the year. Not only is October among the nicest months for area cycling, cyclocross season has already commenced. We are blest with 4 bikeable seasons; except for a couple of snowbound weeks in January and February, Fall seamlessly blends into wet Spring. Planning meetings go on throughout, for example Transportation Advisory Committee, a body mainly made up of automotive exploiters who want to buiild impenetrable impediments to cyclists and pedestrians and steal every shoulder for another unsafe motoring lane. Behooves nonstop participation and vigilance, because your rights will be stripped in absentia.

    • MattMoritz says:

      I agree, nonstop vigilance and participation is required in order to get and defend transportation infrastructure that benefits everyone.. However, I'd dispute what seems to be your claim that the absence of posts on this site implies an absence of advocacy activity and engagement with planners, project managers, et. al.

  17. Labann says:

    Those “bump-outs” we used to use to let others go by are gone. There’s activity and piles of debris and stone on the future bike-ped linear park.

    • ribicycle says:

      Thanks for the update. I\’ve been meaning to go by for a while now and see if there has actually been any activity.

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