UPDATE: Please note that the date has changed to January 11, 2012, 6PM.
The Elmwood Neighborhood Association has sent out a notice of an upcoming public planning meeting to discuss the remainder of the Elmwood repaving project. For more information about the recent activities and some commentary on the current status, be sure to click the “more” link.
Planning meeting for Elmwood Ave
with RIDOT Director Lewis and Senator Pichardo
Tuesday, December 20, 6:00 to 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 6:00 to 8:00 pm
St Paul’s Church Auditorium
445 Elmwood Ave
Enter the Auditorium on Carter St. (Parking is across the street.)
This is your opportunity to discuss the development of Elmwood Ave with RIDOT Director Lewis before contract bids this winter and Elmwood Ave development as early as spring. Please come. Invite your neighbors and colleagues.Please RSVP to Karen Hlynsky, Elmwood Neighborhood Association: (401) 941-8249 or firstname.lastname@example.org
RIBIKE representatives have been participating and monitoring the Elmwood Avenue repaving project since early 2010 when CommunityWorksRI first held a public meeting to gather neighborhood input into what was important for residents to have changed, improved or kept the same when RIDOT executed the project to repave. Out of those meetings, it was concluded that improved pedestrian safety for crossing the street, especially in the area of Knight Memorial Library, Gilbert Stuart Middle School, Alfred Lima Elementary School, West End Community Center and Bucklin Park. The community also expressed interest in including bicycle accommodations in or along the street to provide more comfortable, safe and convenient access to Roger Williams Park and other destinations.
Over the past year RIDOT has executed contracts for preliminary work along the street, extending from Cadillac Drive to Service Road 7, a distance of 2.12 miles. So far, new traffic control lights with pedestrian crossing signals have been installed, temporary ADA compliant ramps have been constructed, the pedestrian activated HAWK signal has replaced a trafffic light at Daboll Street. Also already completed is a restriping of the roadway to change the travel lanes north of Congress Ave from two each direction, to one each direction with a center turning lane.
The next phase of the project will see the entire street milled and repaved, new sidewalks installed, permanent ADA compliant crossings installed, new street trees, signage, and rebuilding the median on the section of roadway that is still 4 lanes (south of Congress Ave).
RIDOT published these “90%” plans to interested parties in late summer, which created some concern among residents, as very few changes seemed to have been made to address the goal of increasing the ease and safety of crossing Elmwood. A formal request to study the possibility of including bike lanes within the roadway was made, as well as a request for a study of pedestrian crossing activity near the aforementioned community resources, all principally on the west side of Elmwood with a large residential area served on the east by these amenities.
RIDOT responded that after study, bicycle lanes could not be included within the footprint of the roadway along its length without removing parking. RIDOT instead intends to use shared lane arrows along the length of the street.
In November, in response to RIDOT’s statements on current project status and design plans, the Elmwood Neighborhood Association conducted a walk-through and examination of the 90% plans available at that time. Senator Pichardo attended, and was asked to speak with Director Lewis to address the neighborhoods desire for a street that supports the community’s needs. During the walk-through, attention was paid to the area around Knight Library, with suggestions that additional signalized crossings be installed to assist with access to community resources, as well as an examination of the areas of Elmwood that had underutilized on-street parking areas due to a lack of businesses, or abundance of off-street parking.
Other items noted were the widening and addition of lanes at some major intersections, that immediately reduced to single lanes that compromised the ability to have through bike lanes, the seemingly excessive width of the travel and center turning lanes along that segment, and the possibility of removing the median, allowing for eliminating a possibly unnecessary northbound lane in section south of Congress Ave, allowing the remaining lanes to be re-positioned and the eliminated lane split to provide a 5′ bike lane on either side of the roadway.
In a recent conversation with a city representative, when mentioning that eliminating parking along portions of Elmwood could allow for the inclusion of bike lanes, I was told that it was politically unlikely to be possible to do this because to the linking of parking to city revenues. I’m not sure this is valid, since as I recall, Elmwood is generally not a metered street. The other issue with this is that in some areas, a new parking lane has been created under the new striping plan, most notably along the cemetery.
In the same conversation, it was indicated that elimination of median had occurred in the Route 10 area under a previous project and the neighbors afterwards felt that the ease of crossing the street had been negatively impacted, so there was no desire to remove the median in this case. It was the opinion of those performing the walk-through that the four-foot wide median was insufficient as a pedestrian refuge area, and did not adequately serve those with strollers and wheelchairs in crossing, since it isn’t designed as a sheltered refuge.
There are sections of Elmwood where on-street parking is absolutely critical to the success of the businesses nearby, especially in the several blocks north and south of Potters Ave with its high density of shops without off-street parking, however, with most of the rest of the street having businesses with off-street parking provided, it would seem that one parking lane on one side of the street could be taken, combined with narrowing the travel lanes from 12-feet to 11, and the median from 15 to 14, to make up the space required to add a 5-foot wide bike lane in each direction either adjacent to the curb or the parking lane, where present. Sharrows should only be used in areas of transition, or where conditions really do not permit dedicated lanes, and should connect these facilities, not be the facility.
As many have pointed out, if the parking lanes are under used, they will (and likely already are) being used be default as bike lanes, so why do anything. My response is that Elmwood is on the city’s transportation plan as a bicycle route, and has signage indicating this. The city, and state should be stepping up their commitment to their plans by taking this opportunity within money already allocated to design the street correctly now, for the next 50 years, as finding money to mill the stripes and repaint the lanes later will incur further expense and delays.