2016-06-02 / Opinion


Next Up: Thames and Spring Streets

A s the long-running Broadway streetscape project nears completion, the applause that you hear in response to that news may be drowned out soon by a new wave of concerned Newport residents.

They will be the good folks expressing their concerns and opinions about the city’s potential next big streetscape project – this time on Thames and Spring streets between Memorial Boulevard and Morton Avenue.

Although the actual construction work is likely years in the future and assumes the city approves a final construction design and secures necessary funding, rumblings have already started. More specifically, a few wide-awake residents of that section of Newport have already discerned unhappily that earlier plans that proposed doing away with unsightly utility wires and poles on lower Thames Street – indeed, just as they have been on upper Thames Street – may have to be scrapped. Among the reasons cited are the threat posed by the proximity to the water and the exorbitant costs that would be incurred by both the city and local merchants in placing the utilities beneath the street.

Our first piece of advice to these people is pretty straightforward – remain calm, at least for now.

Secondly, we urge those who live in or around lower Thames and Spring streets to borrow a page from the Broadway streetscapers’ play book. Not long ago, some of the Broadway folks began meeting at City Hall on Thursday afternoons with city officials such as City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson and Director of Public Services William R. Riccio Jr., as well as a few City Council members and other officials.

These are busy people who have other pressing city business to attend to, but they graciously put aside an hour or so on Thursdays to discuss how the Broadway streetscape project is moving along toward completion. We are certain the dialogue benefits both delegations.

If those from the Thames and Spring area want to see first-hand how the city and residents can work together, consider joining them at 2 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall. We commend Newport officials for taking the time to help concerned citizens better understand complex municipal undertakings.

Meanwhile, interested Newport residents and others can become more involved in the future of Thames and Spring Streets by visiting the project website at thamesandspring.com or the Engage Newport site, which features the latest architectural renderings and provides a space for public comments.

The next Thames Streetscape Advisory Group meeting is scheduled for Aug. 11, which will presumably also provide an opportunity for Newporters to offer their input. The city’s architectural firm at this conceptual stage of the project, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, is scheduled to make a presentation on its design work to the City Council on Oct. 26.

If you live along or near lower Thames or Spring Streets and care about what the years ahead may bring – as well as what these improvements may cost – then it’s not too soon to pay attention to these matters.

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