Wheels of Progress Turning Along the Woonasquatucket: Reed, McKee Celebrate $6.6M in New Federal Funds to Improve Bike Paths & Connect Residents and Neighborhoods to Transportation Options and Outdoor Recreation
$3.4 million for Woonasquatucket River Greenway & $3.2 million for Washington Secondary Bike Path will make RI bikeways longer and stronger
PROVIDENCE, RI – The wheels of progress are starting to turn and bike path improvements that have been in the works for years can now move ahead thanks to new federal funding secured by U.S. Senator Jack Reed.
Today, Senator Reed joined Governor Daniel J. McKee, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti Jr. and officials from the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) to tour the Woonasquatucket River Greenway and discuss $6.6 million in new federal funding to upgrade the Greenway and the Washington Secondary Bike Path. The federal funds will help enhance bike and pedestrian travel and connect the bikeways to more neighborhoods.
“The long and winding road is about to get a bit longer, smother, safer, and more connected thanks to these federal funds and the tireless advocacy of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council. The bike path is for everyone and it promotes healthy living. Whether you are a cyclist commuting to work or a pedestrian out for a stroll, we want to ensure our bike paths serve the community and are integrated into the state’s plans for an efficient multi-modal transportation system and future growth. The Watershed Council has worked for years to bring the community together and lay the groundwork for these projects and I am pleased to support their efforts with this federal funding,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, who secured the funding for these bike path projects as part of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations law.
“These important bike paths improvements will not only make these paths longer and stronger, but they will also help to better connect communities and protect our environment by providing alternative transportation options,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Thank you to Senator Reed for securing these funds so that we can continue to improve our infrastructure across Rhode Island.”
The Greenway offers 7 miles of off-road and on-road bike path connecting parks and open space from Waterplace Park in downtown Providence to Lyman Avenue in Johnston. The scenic trail features over 35 different art installations along the path. Since 2007 the downtown section of the Greenway, from Eagle Square through Providence Place, has consisted of only on-road bike lanes, creating an uninviting atmosphere for potential users. Now, this $3.4 million in federal funding will be used to support the design and build of a dedicated off-road, shared-use path in this section of the greenway. Among other amenities, this section of the Greenway will include a canoe and kayak launch and park areas to provide new opportunities for residents and visitors alike to take advantage of the Woonasquatucket wildlife corridor. These federal funds will help cover engineering costs, new lighting and safety features, and other public amenities for this section of the Greenway.
The Washington Secondary Bike Path is a ‘rail trail’ that stretches 19 miles from Cranston to western Coventry. The new $3.2 million in federal funding will allow RIDOT to accelerate the design and construction of the final 1-mile stretch of trail needed to connect Providence to the existing bike path in Cranston. This project will help fill a “missing link” between the city and the Cranston portion of the existing path, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to travel safely from Providence to western Coventry. Design engineering is underway to determine permitting needs, and RIDOT has received support from the City of Providence, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, and Pawtuxet River Authority to help expedite this project.
“RIDOT will continue to make a strong commitment to bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Each year we invest about $20 million toward these improvements and in the nearby Route 6/10 Interchange project alone we are investing $10 million toward construction of 1.1 miles of shared use path and two pedestrian bridges over Amtrak. Thanks to the additional funds provided by Senator Reed, we can move forward with these projects that ultimately will fill in the missing gaps in our bike network,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. “We look forward to continued collaborations with communities and groups like the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council to improve bike and pedestrian connections across Rhode Island.”
“The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council is so grateful for Senator Reed and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s long time support to create the Woonaquatucket River Greenway. The current and planned Greenway -- amazing assets for the City of Providence and the state of Rhode Island -- are the product of over $20 million in investment. We are proud of this incredible system of trails and parks that: highlights the wildlife corridor of the Woonasquatucket River; offers recreation and transportation benefits to parts of Providence in greatest need; and creates opportunities for cleaner water, healthy wildlife habitat, community engagement, education, health and so much more,” said WRWC Executive Director Alicia Lehrer. “Thanks to our successes, this trail system is poised to connect through Johnston, Smithfield, North Smithfield, and beyond as well as to the Washington Secondary Trail. The Statewide Bike Mobility Plan, when implemented, will make our trail part of an active transportation and recreation network statewide. We could not be more excited.
The funding for both projects announced today will help provide safe, alternative transportation options and recreational opportunities that connect bicyclists and pedestrians to urban centers.
In addition to this $6.6 million in federal funds for bike paths, Rhode Island is also getting $5 million in federal funds for the construction of new East Bay Bike Path bridges over the Barrington and Palmer rivers, thanks to an earmark Senator Reed delivered in the 2022 appropriations law along with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. And this spring Rhode Island got a $4.8 million federal grant for construction of the Blackstone River Bikeway that was funded by the American Rescue Plan (Public Law No. 117-2).
Additionally, RIDOT received $48.5 million in additional federal funding for transportation infrastructure upgrades this year through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) annual August redistribution. The additional federal spending authority will help RIDOT advance shovel-ready projects in the coming weeks, including the East Bay Bike Path, while providing the state with enhanced flexibility to allocate state transportation funds to other road and bridge improvement projects.