2017-03-23 / Opinion

For The “Crater” Good of All


With the advent of the vernal equinox on March 20 (spring, even though it doesn’t feel like it), optimism for individuals, families, businesses and government begin to bloom.

That optimism was palpable last week when a delegation of leaders from the Statehouse arrived at Gurney’s Newport Marina & Resort to unveil their vision for one of the biggest projects the city of Newport has ever seen: The realignment of the Pell Bridge ramps; the addition of roundabouts; and the reconnection of streets near the Connell Highway rotary. One of the biggest surprises in that package, because there has been talk for years about this coming, was the announcement of a 200+ car park-and-ride lot with light rail service into downtown and back. Now that is an optimistic project.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will play a pivotal role in this new project. Knowing that, should we be wary of our new high hopes on the Pell ramp vision? What evidence have we seen that projects like this will move along efficiently. The Broadway streetscape renovation has taken nearly four years and many of us cynically equate it to the Big Dig in Boston. It wasn’t that big! Newport isn’t Boston and it is still not finished. The Big Dig is!

Frequent readers of this page might find Newport This Week obsessed with the story of the prolonged Broadway renovation. Since mid-November (a six-foot deep by 20-foot-wide chasm where Broadway at City Hall and Marlborough Street intersect) has become affectionately known as “the crater.” We understand that unforeseen pipes and/or electrical conduits were discovered there. Project designers were unaware and, thus, postponed the pocket park’s completion.

At best it has been a significant eyesore, amid a new, enjoyable streetscape. The city is fortunate that no one has fallen or driven into the crater’s abyss this winter, or that no one has been hit by a car as they skirted cones.

So, what have the energies of our city leaders been focusing on in addition to myriad municipal business matters, like awarding contracts for seawall repairs and the bid for the new fire/rescue boat? Cigarette butts! The city council and city manager have been hard at work to pass a resolution about the proliferation of cigarette butt litter. (None of us really like to see litter of any kind.)

At the Wednesday, March 22 city council meeting a resolution “requesting the city administration to draft an ordinance requiring merchants to pick up cigarette litter” was passed by a unanimous vote.

It would have been nice to see municipal energies going toward a proactive solution to covering the gaping hole in the streetscape before taking such a myopic stand on something as small as a cigarette butt. We understand there is concern that the new bio-swale drainage technology could be compromised if the butts make it into the street drainage system.

Let’s consider bringing back the trash barrels, how many of us really want to touch the metal handle to open those solar compactor “Big Bellies?” Let’s make a plan to place “cigarette caddies” along the streets at regular intervals. Let’s work on an educational and clean city media campaign. The ordinance is being created to be "an incentive and not punitive," according to the proposing councilors.

Let’s hope the negative fine portion of the ordinance citing merchants who do not pick up cigarette litter in front of their businesses will only be a last resort. Like the plastic bag resolution and ordinance, it will be months in the making.

Let’s be optimistic that people will get the idea not to litter and that businesses will take it upon themselves to clean up in front of their establishments because of their sense of pride for the "greater" good.

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