On Friday, RIDOT released its plan for what the Raimondo administration thinks are the priorities for where transportation investment should go in Rhode Island over the next ten years. The Coalition has been following these developments closely, and continues to advocate for safe & comfortable streets as well as the necessary investment to finish the job of connecting our bike paths.
These recommendations are detailed for many areas of investment, but for the “Transportation Alternatives” section, which includes most bike & pedestrian improvements, RIDOT has not specified project prioritization, just the amount of money that will be available each year. Prioritization of specific projects will be up to municipalities, interested members of the public, and ultimately the Bicycle & Pedestrian Subcommittee of the state Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC). We have partners in advocating for bicycling in the state such as Bari Freeman of Bike Newport and John Flaherty of Grow Smart RI sitting on the TAC, and they are strong voices for giving bike infrastructure its due.
For now, it is informative to see the way RIDOT has proposed breaking down funding from RhodeWorks when it comes to bike/ped investments:
Note that the “Existing funding” line is what happens if the new funding from the truck toll proposal does not pass, and the “RhodeWorks” line is what happens if the truck tolls do pass. Additionally, reports indicate that $100m of the $130m here is intended by RIDOT to be specifically for bike infrastructure.
This backloading of bike/ped investment is not surprising, as RIDOT has been been talking about the concept of frontloading bridge repair & delaying other investment for a while. The following graph has been gracing the easels of the RIDOT Director’s office for months:
Bike/ped investment in the above graph is the red area immediately above the black area.
It is our goal to keep you informed about the progress of these proposals through RIDOT, the TAC, and whatever other avenues are necessary to finish the job of completing & connecting our bike path resources in the state. While we understand and respect the argument made by RIDOT to frontload bridge repair, we are concerned that delaying bike investment will lead to the sort of runaway delays we have seen for years and years. We believe that this $100m from RhodeWorks should be directed toward off-road infrastructure primarily, because on-road infrastructure can be included for almost no cost when road resurfacing happens. Current law calls for RIDOT to consider complete streets whenever road projects are happening, and we are working to both improve this law and facilitate a statewide bike plan that will make such efficient investments more clear. The more you can be involved, the more success we will have.