2017-05-11 / Front Page

New Bike Path to Connect the Community

By Brooke Constance White


The construction of a $1 million 1.7-mile segment of bike path along the rail corridor from the visitor’s center to the CCRI campus is being funded through the state’s Greenway Economy Bond. (Photo Contributed by Bike Newport) The construction of a $1 million 1.7-mile segment of bike path along the rail corridor from the visitor’s center to the CCRI campus is being funded through the state’s Greenway Economy Bond. (Photo Contributed by Bike Newport) Thanks to the state’s Greenway Economy Bond and the continuing advocacy of local stakeholders, a long-anticipated bike path connecting Newport’s north and south ends will become a reality in the next few years.

The 1.7-mile bikeway will improve safety and access for bicyclists throughout the community, with a long-term goal for the path to connect to East Bay, and eventually to Tiverton and Fall River, Mass.

At the moment, there are only a handful of bicycle and pedestrian lanes in or along the roadway in Newport, making the new greenway the first designated bikeway on Aquidneck Island. It will extend from the rail depot adjacent to the Visitors Center to the Community College of Rhode Island’s Newport campus.

Bari Freeman, executive director of Bike Newport, said the multi-use path will be a boon for the city by providing a safe, designated throughway for residents and visitors. Although the city initially thought it would not qualify for a portion of the $35 million bond because it didn’t have a designed project ready, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office, the state’s Department of Environmental Management and regional bike advocacy groups decided it was time to get started. For the initial 1.7-mile portion, the city has received $1 million.

“This is the first part of what will be a much longer path someday,” Freeman said. “This goes right along with our mission at Bike Newport, which is to improve, encourage and facilitate bicycling in Newport. Right now, the only way to bike through the city is to use the roadways with cars. Ideally, there should be alternatives, because having to bike in the roadway keeps a lot of people from getting on their bicycles.”

The new path will have a positive social impact on residents, local businesses and visitors, she said.

“Thousands of people will be impacted,” Freeman said. “Thirty-eight percent of the city’s population lives on the north side of the city, so we’re really excited to connect the area’s mostly densely populated area to the rest of the community. One of the requirements of the bond is that it must be used to benefit the most amount of people, and this route will have an enormous impact.”

In a press release, Rhode Island DEM Director Janet Coit said she’s excited to consider the effect the project will have on promoting alternative ways of commuting.

“The investments we’re making with the Green Economy Bond are important for Rhode Island, for our environment, economy and families. And they wouldn’t be possible without the leadership and strong support of community partners like Bike Newport,” Coit said. “I am grateful to the entire bike advocacy team that came together to advocate for this funding and to work with us to produce a list of projects that will dramatically improve our bike facilities across the state.”

Freeman said Bike Newport has advocated for the project since its inception in 2012, always garnering statewide support.

“This project represents the start of connecting one of the most beautiful statewide bikeway networks in the country,” she said. “It’s also the chance to begin building needed bike paths on Aquidneck Island. We will see significant community benefits and improve transportation for the greatest number of people. From here we can work our way up to connect with the rest of the state.”

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