2017-08-31 / Opinion


Back to the Future for Broadway Project

We think most people, especially the merchants and those who live in the area along Broadway, are excited and relieved that the Broadway project is almost completed. But now that the heavy lifting is over, it’s time to address a number of other "punch list" items in the city.

One such item is the proposed streetscape improvements for Lower Thames Street, beginning at Memorial Boulevard, and continuing south to Wellington Avenue. Another is the improvements planned for the easterly south to north corridor of Spring Street. In previous years, the State of Rhode Island Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) applications listed the projects as Priority 2A and 2B, just behind Broadway.

In its 2011 application to the state, the city identified that more than 8,000 vehicles per day travel those two corridors during the off-season. The economic significance of Newport's "Main Street on the Waterfront" was highlighted in the application, while promises of increased bicycle and pedestrian improvements were championed.

We agree wholeheartedly with the elements of the application that stressed the need to incorporate cost-effectiveness into construction and maintenance; retain jobs on "Main Street”; encourage tourism; make improvements to storm water management; help those who are economically disadvantaged by improving access and availability to commerce in the area; create a positive environmental impact by providing more bicycle and pedestrian routes and increasing transient trolley and harbor shuttles.

There was even a pledged commitment to support the project, backed by a City Council Resolution and a bonding dedication.

Unfortunately, little of it happened. With the Volvo Race and America's Cup trials coming to Newport, the city resurfaced Thames and Spring Streets, but that’s about it. When the Broadway project hit a financial speed bump in seeking available state money, the city reallocated the funding and abandoned the other proposed projects, also abandoning the affected merchants and residents.

In 2011 construction cost numbers, the Memorial Boulevard to Wellington Avenue portion of the project would have cost just over $4.2 million, with 64 percent funded by the state. The most recent 2018 TIP applications were due earlier in August, and we are hopeful that with the completion of Broadway, the city will move the Thames and Spring Streets projects to the top of its priority list.

If the city truly believes in the importance of these two corridors, as it stated in its 2011 TIP application, then it has the obligation to back up those statements. If it doesn't, it should explain to the merchants and residents why their needs and those areas are no longer a priority.

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