South Water St Being Reduced To One Lane

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.)

14 thoughts on “South Water St Being Reduced To One Lane”

  1. I disagree with Beth’s position. More bike infrastructure is a good thing with wide body of supporting research showing it benefits public health, the local economy, real estate values, and tourism. Cars incur an exponentially higher cost than walkers and bikers when it comes to the cost of road maintenance, ambulances, parking, healthcare to treat diseases caused by pollution. Active transit is the future no matter how many fear-mongering baby boomers try to argue otherwise.

  2. Stop repeating the same tired and disproven talking points that drove interstates through the centers of our cities in the 20th century. The river belongs to walkers and bikers and most of all residents of Providence, not people who commute to white flight suburbs and want to drive at 80 miles per hour. A broad and longstanding body of research shows that walkable and bikeable cities are better for public health, the economy and tourism.

  3. Why do you keep deleting my comments. If you keep censoring the comments, I will submit a tip to a news organization like Golocalprov or the ProJo that you are deleting comments that disagree with your point of view.

  4. This person has no idea what they’re talking about. Walkable cities are better for the economy, public health, and tourism. The pedestrians in this area who greatly outnumber the cars (though take up less space) deserve a safe and pleasant riverfront, not a straightaway for drag racing and speeding.
    Stop stirring the pot the this sort of car-centric traffic fear mongering that brought about the interstate highways that ruined oh so many American cities.

  5. Sorry Beth but you’re wrong on this one. Investing in pedestrian and bike infrastructure like the 195 park and pedestrian bridge has done wonders to the life of the riverfront and I’m certain its brought about a spike in property values. Vibrant cities that people want to live in aren’t those that choose to waste their best views and natural amenities on streets made for speeding and white flight. Stop writing conservative attacks on livability and stirring the pot of reactionary boomers.

  6. What a reactionary, uninformed, and tired take. This sort of opinion comes from someone with no understanding of induced and reduced demand and willfully looks past the entire point of the 195 relocation. If anything is going to save Providence from its current condition of empty surface lots, brain drain, and few
    families it’s walkability.

    One survey shows that 63% of millennials and 42% of baby boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. According to urbanist Jeff Speck, residents choosing to drive cost cities $9.20 in services like policing and ambulances, the costs of residents walking in these same services is a penny. A broad body of research also shows that walkability and bike-ability increase property values and stimulates local spending, benefiting the local economy.

  7. Why don’t kids walk or bike to school like the good old days?
    Because parents are afraid of all the dangerous traffic!
    Why is there so much dangerous traffic?
    Because all the parents drive their kids to and from school.
    This is stupid. How do we begin to fix it?
    Road diets, traffic calming, speed humps…
    “I support bicycles and bicycle lanes, but…” means allowing bike lanes ONLY where they can be installed with zero impact on anyone’s driving and parking habits. It is time for bike infrastucture that actually goes where people need to go and that protects riders where they need protection most. Not just for kids, either.

  8. This is the most DAFT idea!! There is currently a lack of parking in that area for shops and restaurants. Not counting the events that draw tourists and locals alike to participate with lessening parking options!!

  9. The author suggests that PVD roads aren’t appropriate for bikes since they follow old cart paths – but roads that follow 17th century layouts are good for cars?

  10. Is the author still mad about Blackstone Blvd? This is the one topic that Beth is consistently on the wrong side of

  11. Disappointing take, Beth. S Water is totally terrifying to cross – speeds are too high, and there’s not a congestion issue there. There’s no evidence evidence that this would cause a problem – even boring Barry can only “ask questions” a la Tucker Carlson. And even if it does slow drivers down, isn’t that a good thing? The area is turning into one of our best open spaces, with tons of families and animals enjoying the riverside, the flowers, and the restaurants along the uphill side of the road and on S Main. We’re all better off if the street is primarily for local use rather than a car sewer.

  12. “I support bicycles and bicycle lanes, but…” is an old and tired line. Many other cities with hills (see San Francisco) and winters (see Minneapolis) have decent populations of people who get around by bike. What do they have that Providence doesn’t? The infrastructure that people need to feel safe while riding.

    The developments at South Water, if done right, will create the sort of density that will make this path all the more important. If you support safe cycling and better infrastructure, please refrain from publishing speculative FUD and give these projects a chance.

  13. It’s possible the decision has been made based on spurious data, but it is in fact a fine and good one People treat S Water like a thoroughfare, which is completely at odds with the foot traffic by the river. Why should commuters get any precedence here?

    All downtown streets should be reduced to one lane and Westminster should be shut down entirely on weekend nights.

  14. It’s really tiresome to see these boring conservative attacks on efforts to make our city a nicer place to live. People who don’t use cars deserve infrastructure, too. I get that you don’t live that life, but is it so hard to imagine that people who cannot or do not drive have just as much right to public space as people who use cars?

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