Washington Bridge Bikeway/Linear Park Update

Prediction: This is going to be a huge hit. The new bikeway/walkway/sitting and viewing park elevated high above the Seekonk River is scheduled to open in November. But it wasn’t until reading Richard Salit’s description in the Saturday ProJo that I grasped the extent of the project. This is a completely new and separate span running parallel, on the south side, to the existing two spans that constitute the Washington Bridge (Route 195). Here’s the history.

The Washington Bridge was actually two structures, one eastbound and the other westbound. The westbound span, built in 1969, still carries Route 195 over the Seekonk River. But most of the older eastbound span, constructed in 1930, was demolished and replaced in a project completed in 2006.

At the urging of bicycle advocates and preservationists, the state saved substantial sections of the 1,800-foot span, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and links the popular East Bay Bike Path to India Point Park and downtown Providence. Nearly two of the Classical Revival span’s travel lanes were spared, along with the stonework façade and the bridge-keeper buildings from when the span was a drawbridge.

Frankly, I stood directly beneath this structure today and I still don’t quite understand what happened here. Never mind, it’s going to be amazing. The views of the bay will be mesmerizing — check out Sandor Bodo’s panorama from the old drawbridge operator’s tower to get some idea — and honestly, I think just as many people will want to watch the traffic whizzing by on the other side. (That may be shielded from view somewhat. Check out the rendering at RIDOT, Washington Bridge Bikeway and Linear Park.)

There will be an 11-foot-wide bike lane and a separate 7-foot-wide walkway for pedestrians. Now, I am no constitutional expert, but I think what this means is that anybody caught riding their bike in the walking path, and anybody caught walking in the bikeway can legally be hurled over the side, into the drink, and there won’t be a jury in the land that can convict you.

One last note: On November 4th we will be electing a new mayor. Should he be elected, one certain self-regarding narcissist will have his name and picture plastered all over this thing the next day, taking complete credit for the entire project and the invention of the bicycle.

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