The Gano-India Point intersection construction project, which would have removed the awkward 90-degree turn by utilizing the center span of the bridge, has been defunded by RIDOT.
The Fox Point Neighborhood Association, FPNA, has formed Save Gano Gateway, a coalition seeking to restore funding to the proposed I-195 construction project at the intersection of Gano and India streets in Fox Point.
On August 26th, Providence Department of Planning & Development Director Bonnie Nickerson told FPNA and interested guests that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, RIDOT, has permanently defunded the I-195 construction project in order to cover rising costs of the Providence River Pedestrian Bridge, now at $18 million.
The $2.4 million dollars, which was taken from the proposed Gano Gateway project, would have solved many inherent problems that currently exist for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists at the intersection of India and Gano streets. Foremost, it would have removed the existing stop sign with its 90-degree turn, which drastically slows traffic flow from both directions. A widened new roadway traveling under a more eastern span of the Washington Bridge would have taken its place. Turn lanes in both directions for accessing the I-195 Gano westbound entrance ramp were included.
The design plan also would have provided widened sidewalks and traffic crossings, for cyclists, pedestrians, and dog walkers, who now must dodge aggravated motorists. Included in the RIDOT design were two additional parking lots under the bridge for India Point Park, each with lighting and landscaping.
Instead, Nickerson broke the news of RIDOT’s decision to the group, which included FPNA board members, Co-chair of Friends of India Point Park Marjorie Powning, Senator Gayle Goldin, Representative Chris Blazejewski, I-195 Re-Development Commission Executive Director Peter McNalley, Albert A. Dahlberg, Assistant Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Brown University, Sharon Steel and Olin Thompson, co-chairs of Building Bridges Providence, an advocacy group for the proposed pedestrian bridge and adjacent riverside parks.
Design Drawings Shown in 2011
The design of the Gano-India Street construction project was first presented to FPNA by RIDOT Senior Engineer Lambri Zerva in 2011. It logically was to follow the extension of the Blackstone Bikeway, currently under construction. It is called the Gano Gateway because it is located at the convergence of the first I-195 entrance into the city from the east and a nexus of bike pathway systems. At this critical point, the Blackstone Bike Way, which will eventually connect to Woonsocket, joins the Washington Bridge Linear Park, the East Bay Bikeway system and India Point Park for access to other bikeways into Providence.
Both Nickerson and McNalley said the proposal to defund the project was a “funding decision,” to keep the pedestrian bridge construction project, expected to be completed in 2018, on track. “It is crucial to development of the I-195 corridor for the public to see construction on this centerpiece project begin,” McNalley said.
FPNA board members assured him that they would do nothing to slow that process. “We’ve gone to design meetings on the bridge, too, and know that any change delays the project for numerous months,” FPNA Executive Secretary John Rousseau responded. “We assure you that we are in 100 percent agreement with you that nothing should delay the pedestrian bridge project for one day.”
While that consensus is goal number one of the Save Gano Gateway Group, goal number two is urging RIDOT and Governor Gina Raimondo to find other funding options for this last I-195 project. “We’ve seen the blue signs for the Newport-to-Providence Ferry go up all over the area,” he pointed out.
Gano Gateway Crucial for Tourism
“This proposed gateway is an important piece of the waterfront development puzzle that should not be “cherry-picked,” for defunding,” Rousseau emphasized. “If the Governor’s Office is serious about building on the ferry’s success and increasing tourism in Rhode Island, we believe the funding can be found somewhere.”
The only complaint we’ve heard about the ferry is that sometimes there is not enough parking,” Rousseau said. “Congestion on Gano Street, however, is the number one complaint FPNA has been receiving from residents and motorists, who exit at the I-195 Gano ramp for College Hill and Brown University,” Rousseau said. “For motorists turning left to attend and then leave events at India Point Park, they face total gridlock.”
Powning says that insufficient parking spaces and interstate access means all events at India Point Park must deal with unreasonable traffic jams. “Eventually, event-goers may not come back,” she added. “My kids have grown up watching us participate in the public meeting process for as long as we’ve lived here,” Powning adds. “It’s really a sad lesson for them to learn when government goes back on its word.”
Unsafe Conditions Under Bridge
Underneath the bridge, there is no lighting or landscaping with varying amounts of debris and potholes since the I-195 Gano eastbound entry ramp was removed in 2007. “This derelict place is filled with garbage, potholes, illegal dumping and piles of construction debris, which they periodically move around,” Powning pointed out. “It’s an abandoned area that is unsafe for our park and nearby schools.”
The neighborhood has been looking forward to a transformation of this eyesore since the I-195 eastbound entranceway was removed in 2007. Removal of that ramp left a mountainous berm that looms over Brown University’s Hunter S. Marsden Boathouse. “If the (gateway) construction doesn’t go forward, we’ll have to alter the landscaping improvement plans we have for the boathouse,” Dahlberg said.
Both State Representative Chris Blazejewski and State Senator Gayle Goldin pledged support to Save Gano Gateway through their contacts in state government.
Councilman Seth Yurdin, who was out of state when the meeting was held, has been communicating with FPNA since hearing of the decision in mid-August. "It is very disappointing that the state has unilaterally proposed cutting funding for this project without notice or input from our neighborhood,” he said following the meeting. “I will continue to work with FPNA to push for restoration of funds and for the necessary improvements for both the neighborhood and India Point Park."
Many of the persons in the room participated in numerous charettes on the waterfront in 2007, which gave development direction to the Providence Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan. That document calls for “establishment of gateways to the waterfront from the existing neighborhood, streetscape and pedestrian improvements along key connections and parking to encourage public use of the waterfront.”
Events this Month:
FPNA Board Meeting, 7 p.m., Monday, October 11th at the Vartan Gregorian Bath House Community Room, 455 Wickenden Street. Public welcome.
FPNA Bi-Annual Community Membership Meeting, to be announced.