According to data from the 2016 Benchmarking Report from the national Alliance for Biking and Walking, Rhode Island has the most mileage of rail trails per square miles of land area of any state in the country! We are positioned as a leading destination for bike tourism, and we’re excited that RhodeWorks and the Green Economy Bond will help us connect the dots to make that happen!
According to the report, Rhode Island has 71 miles of paved rail trails, and because we’re the #smalleststatebeststate with only 1033 square miles of land, that means we have more miles of rail trail for our land area than any other state! Here’s a chart to show what we mean:
Now it’s time to fill in the gaps. We’ve got more than $100 million of bike path projects that need building, including some crucial links through the cities of Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls. RhodeWorks increased funding for these projects by 40% over the next ten years, but it’s still not enough. That’s why RIBike has been working with other partners through the Paths to Progress coalition to get a bond referendum for bike path construction. The Governor included $10 million for bike paths in the Green Economy Bond proposal in her 2016 budget, and now the legislature needs to approve it for the voters to have their say in November. You can find out who your state legislators are on the Secretary of State’s website, and if you contact your “Representative in General Assembly” in support of the bond, that can do the most to help!
In addition, we’re asking RIDOT to submit a bike project application for the competitive federal TIGER grant program. According to USDOT, TIGER grant applicantions “must detail the benefits their project would deliver for five long-term outcomes: safety, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, quality of life and environmental sustainability. DOT also evaluates projects on innovation, partnerships, project readiness, benefit cost analysis, and cost share.” We believe that bike projects are competitive on a number of these criteria, and our recommended project, the Blackstone Bikeway Section 8 (from the current northern terminus through downtown Woonsocket to the MA border) is ready, a recognized priority, and would come with a strong equity impact.
And of course, as we continue to advocate for making our awesome trails into a connected network, we’re also working hard to improve our Complete Streets policies to get on-road bike infrastructure to be truly safe and comfortable for all Rhode Islanders to bike around our beautiful state!
Looking forward to celebrating our excellent rail trails with you in 2016!