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  • Peter Phipps Fox Point Neighborhood Assn.

Will 1 more lane help S. Water St. traffic?

Mayor Smiley’s $4.4 million plan to add a second traffic lane on South Water Street keeps the bike lanes and widens the parking lanes. 

Two questions remain: How’s the city going to find space for the extra lane?  And will the drag racers return?

Ward 1 councilman John Goncalves, who opposes the traffic plan, says he expects  “everything is just shifting to river” taking space away from the sidewalk or the park.

The mayor’s office isn’t saying. Spokesman Josh Estrella, told the Providence Journal that it’s up to the engineers to decide ”what goes where and if the sidewalk gets smaller.”

As for the drag racing, Goncalves said he is concerned. “I’m not happy about two lanes,” he said. But “the mayor was adamant.”

Goncalves said he hopes two pedestrian platforms, like the one in front of the State House, will slow traffic, protect pedestrians and discourage wheelies and drag racing. 

The mayor, in his press release, said the second lane of traffic — from the Crawford Bridge to Wickenden Street — will help smooth the afternoon traffic on South Water Street.

But, because of the Washington Bridge problem, the extra lane won’t clear the afternoon traffic jam entirely. Nor does the mayor promise it will.

That’s because, while the second lane may move some traffic onto Wickenden faster, the traffic trying to get on I-195 will still get squeezed into one lane south of Wickenden. And that traffic will still back up on South Water.

But, the mayor said, his new plan “will ease the traffic congestion from the original flawed design and exacerbated by the closure of the Washington Bridge, improving overall traffic flow in the area.’’

Last fall, the mayor proposed replacing the existing bike lanes with the additional traffic lane he wanted. Goncalves and Liza Burkin, lead organizer for the Providence Streets Coalition, fought to keep the bike lanes, and prevailed

The two, who were quoted in the mayor’s press release, remain unconvinced that a second traffic lane is a good idea. 

“I’m not happy about two lanes,” Goncalves said. “There was no data to back this up.”

Burkin added: "restoring a second driving lane will benefit neither residents nor commuters.’’

Construction will begin next spring. The $4.4 million will come from  a federal grant.


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