To: RIDOT & Federal Highway Administration
Bike Newport is an advocacy and education organization in Newport, RI with a focus on equitable and safe access to bicycles and bicycle network connectivity. This letter is in response to the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the reconstruction of the Pell Bridge approaches issued on 11/24/19.
First, we want to thank you for prioritizing the realignment of the Pell Bridge approaches in Newport, as the ramps are historically a source of congestion and safety issues, as well as a contributor to the separation and isolation of Newport’s North End neighborhoods.
We are asking RIDOT to commit to the components that the Draft EA refers to as “vulnerable road user improvements”, to guarantee multiple safe and calm routes connecting the North End with the rest of the City, and navigable by all modes of transportation, including cycling and walking.
We seek clarification/confirmation regarding these issues to be addressed in more advanced design stages:
1. North End Separation. Preferred Alternative 4B does not correct or alleviate historic and current barriers to community cohesion on Admiral Kalbus Road. Admiral Kalbfus Road in its current configuration creates a division between the North End and the rest of Newport with both safety and social/environmental justice implications. The EA is required to address economic justice in two ways: 1) correction of existing conditions that isolate and segregate communities, and 2) new design that enhances and elevates community cohesion. What considerations are underway to alleviate this divide, as required by federal environmental justice requirements?
2. Shared Use Paths. We would like assurance that all bike and pedestrian accommodation will be separated by barriers from motorized traffic for the safety of vulnerable road users, and in keeping with standards set forth in the draft RI Statewide Bicycle Mobility Plan, due for adoption in early 2020. Sidewalks should be wide enough for families, wheelchairs and other mobility enhancers. Can we confirm that the shared use paths and bike lanes referenced in these preliminary designs will be separated from motorized traffic?
3. Safe Pedestrian and Bike Crossings. In addition to crosswalks, the project areas can include pedestrian/bicycle bridges as well as surface signaled crossings. Attention should be paid to ADA compliance, design, materials, weather protection, long-term sustainability, and creative components that create a fully welcoming atmosphere. Will there be an appropriate number of safe, considerate, and well-designed crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists across the east-west Admiral Kalbfus corridor and north-south Connell Highway corridor?
4. Explore Alternative Distribution of Traffic Away from Admiral Kalbfus. The proposed design (4B) does not distribute traffic away from the Admiral Kalbfus corridor. As discussed in (1) above, this corridor has been identified as a primary source of community divide and community concern for several decades. With the proposed design, traffic continues to be encouraged to travel east-bound on Admiral Kalbfus Road. In this plan, there is no indication of traffic calming in this area. It will remain at least as problematic, if not more. Are DOT and the City considering another north-south channel off the bridge to distribute traffic away from Admiral Kalbfus? Is a northern extension of Halsey Street – between the RK shopping center and Festival Field to Connell Highway possible as a separate but related project? Finally, given the proximity of this/any proposed routes to residences, will we always consider the air quality implications of a proposed roadway on resident health?
We believe that considerations of design and connectivity must address equitable access to bike and pedestrian infrastructure that connect with each other and with the upcoming “First Mile” shared use path in the rail corridor, as well as resident mobility, safety, access, air quality, noise, and other potential impacts. We appreciate the DOT’s commitment to community engagement ensuring that residents are aware of road design plans in advance and have the opportunity to respond.
Thank you for your attention and for your consideration of the public’s comments.
The Staff and Board of Directors of Bike Newport