The troubled Great Streets initiative will be rearing its ugly head once again when South Water Street gets pared down to one lane of traffic to accommodate a new bike lane. Check out the September issue of Providence Monthly for a great op-ed written by publisher Barry Fain with staff writer Steve Triedman: “Great Streets off to a Bumpy Start.” They looked into the data used to support the South Water Street plan:
The planning department’s supporting data is based on a traffic study taken in March of last year that recorded 329 cars per hour. The threshold for two lanes is 600, which planning department spokesman Tim Rondeau says supports their decision. But, and it’s a big “but”, this data was collected just before the City was completely shut down due to the pandemic, which may have skewed the numbers.
Ya think? I decided to check my own photo library from last March, before the big shut down. Ironically, on March 1st I had walked down to the Jewelry District for the express purpose of photographing the new bike lanes that were then causing such consternation. The streets were totally, eerily, empty, and I have the pictures to prove it. I’m not sure when in March the planning department took its readings, but that data would have zero application to future traffic patterns. Fain continues:
. . . Even more ominous is that the study was conducted before Trader Joe’s announced they would be opening on the street, which will add traffic. The Parcel 6 project will only offer 162 parking spaces in the garage to service Trader Joe’s, 68 residential units, and an additional 10,000 square feet of retail space.
And that’s not all: Go look at the just released proposals for Parcel 2 which sits right between the southern ends of South Water and South Main Streets (ProJo 9.20.21). Whichever plan gets the green light, traffic will be increasing big time.
I support bicycles and bicycle lanes, but Providence is never going to be the bicycle city of Mayor Elorza’s dreams (see, Beijing). We have winter, we have hills, and many of our streets were fashioned out of old cow paths. Narrowing the roadway in this particular location is already a bad idea, but the upcoming projects on the nearby I-195 redevelopment parcels demand that the planning department go back to the drawing board.
(The Providence Great Streets Initiative was launched in January of 2020.)