A Comparison of Costs



My recent discovery of the $500,000 dollars alloted for bridge repair along the East Bay Bike Path (EBBP) from the upcoming stimulus money got me thinking… how does this compare in magnitude to a similar road project?

As many of you may know, there are two adjacent bridges for the roadway that have been under construction for at least 10 years.  So I thought it would be fun to try and dig up some numbers for comparison.  I’m often floored by the absolute cost of projects undertaken by RIDOT, so I prepared myself for a total shock.  After some time spent on the web and a couple of emails, I received a pointer to an article posted on constructionequipmentguide.com.  In this article they state that

There is another impressive sight that bike path athletes and weekend warriors have come to see over many years — jutting, angular reddish steel and impressive rectangular concrete box beams — the ongoing $22 million rebuilding of the Barrington River Bridge and its sister project, the Warren River Bridge, a quarter mile to the south on Route 114 in Barrington.

It’s unclear from this wording whether the $22M pricetag is for one bridge or two.  Let’s assume for the minute that it’s a pricetag for both, although I highly suspect it’s the price of just one.  This is a 40 fold increase over the cost of the repairs being done to the bridges on the bike path.  Now, those of you who are astute will say, “wait a minute, they are just replacing the decking on the bike path bridges, this isn’t a fair comparison”.  Fair enough, let’s increase the cost of replacing the bike path bridges by a factor or 4, so we are now looking at only a 10 fold increase for the bigger bridges.  It’s still staggering!


  • Bill DeSantis
    Mar 2, 2009 at 6:57 am

    as a civil engineer with 30 + yrs designing raodways in RI, there's so much more that goes into projects that is not seen including environmental factors. "Saving the Bay" costs $$$$$$!

  • Mar 2, 2009 at 10:35 am


    I'll be the first to admit that my post isn't an in-depth comparison, it was meant to be a back of the envelope type calculation. My entire goal was to get people thinking about the huge cost differences between the different types of infrastructure and they are huge. You mention environmental factors, are these not in play for bike trail type bridges? I would think the same requirements are in place, regardless of the project type.

    My fundamental argument remains the same though:

    By reducing the number of trips made by people in single occupancy vehicles and increasing the use mass transit and alternative forms of transportation, bicycles and walking, there can be a net decrease in the number of vehicles on the road. This net decrease in automobile traffic will reduce the wear and tear on the existing infrastructure and require less infrastructure overall. The net result is that people can move around at a reduced cost to the state.

    Do you see a flaw in this fundamental argument?

    I'm a firm believer that we can no longer build our way out of traffic congestion. There is a limited amount of space available to build new roads and the cost of maintaining this increased infrastructure is not supportable. Toss in the reduced environmental impact and reduced need for foreign energy and I fail to see why more people aren't clamoring for better, non-automobile centric, infrastructure.

  • Mar 3, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Yeah, and there's all the pocket lining to consider. RIDOT just spent a BILLION dollars for 4 miles of highway (I-way and Quonset connector), and neither is complete yet. The typical cost of a bikeway including engineering is $900,000 a mile, a ratio of 250:1; of that, most goes to engineering. What a riot! The railroad beds were already engineered long ago to carry TRAINS, a lot heavier than bicyclists and walkers.

    Mark wrote…

    "We can no longer build our way out of traffic congestion…"

    FHWA and USDOT long ago disproved that adding traffic lanes decreases congestion. No, it's the opposite. Any perception of additional flow attracts more traffic. Lane switching is what slows flow, and it becomes very difficult to enter, exit or switch when there's 14 lanes, as there are in LA.

    Any idea that more motorized traffic will increase tourism is also false. Motorists don't stop to visit where they can fly through. Here, they don't want to lose their place in the gridlock. Ambiance, culture, housing, services, stores and the infrastructure to access them is what attracts residents and visitors alike.

    I might add that the engineering on the new I-way is especially poor and will increase accidents, particularly the twisty part with multiple exits.

    Buddy on-air dismissed the addition of central parking lots on the city's empty periphery with frequent trolley service to the center. Sure, it's been tried unsuccessfully. That's because they still allow parking in the city. Downtown streets aren't wide enough for parking. And you'd throw an axle on Weybosett St these days; looks more like Baghdad for all the craters. No, an elevated monorail loop or surface trolleys would be far superior. But they don't have any urban planning going on, just de facto nodding approval to every ridiculous project that purports to increase traffic, because the Chamber erroneously thinks that will increase revenues for businessmen.

    Sensible (or any) growth depends upon better planning than what Providence has seen to date. It's no mystery. Jane Jacobs' books ARE available at the CLAN libraries.