The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) announced today that it will open the new linear park on the historic Washington Bridge in Providence on weekends beginning Saturday, May 2; this to allow the public to take advantage of the spring weather and enjoy the new bike path as soon as possible. The park will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from dawn to dusk; this schedule will be in effect until the project is completed and the park is fully opened in late June. As part of this project, the original bike path - which was closed in 2012 for rehabilitation - has been transformed into an 11-foot bikeway with a separate 7-foot walking path and a center plaza offering scenic overlooks, rest areas, greenery, and information on the history of the bridge and surrounding communities.
"Building more livable, walkable communities not only promotes healthier lifestyles but also supports our economy," Governor Gina M. Raimondo said. "Accommodating all types of travel will make Rhode Island a more attractive place to live and work. This new park will be a shining example of Rhode Island's continued commitment to building a 21st century transportation system."
"Just in time for spring, Providence residents and all Rhode Islanders are gaining access to an urban greenspace and recreational opportunity that will beautify the area and strengthen the sense of place and community in Providence," said Congressman Jim Langevin. "I'm grateful that the DOT and city leaders have decided to give cyclists and pedestrians limited access, and I look forward to seeing the finished product of this much-anticipated renovation."
"This park will provide a beautiful vantage point to take in our Capital City, and make Providence a safer and healthier place to enjoy the outdoors," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "Congratulations to RIDOT, the City of Providence, and all the Rhode Islanders who will benefit from this new space."
"Investing in improvements to our public parks creates good-paying jobs and makes Rhode Island an even better place to live, work, and raise a family," said Congressman David Cicilline. "I thank RIDOT for their work to open the new linear park and look forward to celebrating the completion of this project in a few months."
This complex project involved not only replacing the original path but also rebuilding portions of the bridge to accommodate a wider path as well as a park on the bridge's center span. Many of the bridge's historical features - such as the multi-arch granite façade and the two operator's houses that once controlled a drawbridge connecting Providence and East Providence - were rehabilitated. The granite pylons and bronze plaques on each end of the bridge were also restored.
The $22 million project included the reconstruction of the Warren Avenue Ramp Bridge, which carries traffic from I-195 East to Veterans Memorial Parkway (Exit 4) in East Providence; the new ramp opened to traffic in September 2013.
"This project was always about more than just rebuilding a bike path," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. "The Washington Bridge is part of our collective history, and with the opening of the new linear park, we are positioning it to play an important role in our future as well. In addition to restoring a vital connection for bike and pedestrian commuters, it will support development in the area while also celebrating the rich history of this bridge and its neighboring communities. In short order, the new park is sure to emerge as one of our state's crown jewels."
While the path will open for weekends, users should be aware that the park remains a work zone, and construction activities will continue project-wide, Monday through Friday; the work remaining includes the installation of concrete sidewalks, benches and informational signs at the center plaza and some work on the underside of the bridge.
When the project wraps up this summer, the new linear park will be dedicated in honor of the late George Redman, an East Providence resident and bicycle advocate who was instrumental in the creation of the East Bay Bike Path 25 years ago.
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Schedule of work is weather-dependent and subject to change; RIDOT will make every reasonable effort to accelerate the work where possible.