Rhode Island, the Highway State
Rhode Island Department of Transportation has learned that it lost its bid for a $175-million federal FASTLANE grant to rebuild the Route 6/10 Connector, and that’s probably good news for Rhode Islanders.
Despite the appearance of three options for the rebuild, RIDOT’s preferred plan was the massive, $1 billion dollar “Big Dig” proposal. The plan, which includes a makeover of the dilapidated highway, the addition of a network of freestanding bus rapid transit stations, and a new tunnel over the interchange, looked like it was in cruise control.
The 6/10 Connector project is outside of RIDOT’s comfort zone
In an era where city planners, backed by the US Department of Transportation, take every opportunity to replace urban highways with more efficient, transportation-friendly, and cost-effective networks, RIDOT’s “Big Dig” plan looks like a throwback to the 1950s. Typical of Eisenhower-era highway systems, RIDOT’s approach benefits long distance commuters at the expense of the residents who bear the brunt of living near the highway. It’s an antiquated, suburbs-first philosophy.
One of the biggest issues with RIDOT’s “Big Dig” proposal is a matter of maintenance. Not only does the proposal call for rebuilding the existing infrastructure – but it also suggests covering that rebuilt infrastructure with even more complicated infrastructure. We can’t afford to maintain the highway as it is. Now imagine adding a tunnel on top of it. I know, frightening. If you hadn’t noticed, Rhode Island has plenty of Kia-eating potholes and swiss cheese bridges braced by wooden planks as it is. It would seem prudent to simplify the project, not complicate it.
To RIDOT’s credit, the transparency of the agency has increased since the dark days of the 90s when concerned citizens formed the group “DOT Watch” to keep the agency in check. If this were 1991, Rhode Island’s “Big Dig” would’ve already gone out to bid. Still, the agency was criticized for it’s public vetting process this Spring; a process that seemed to preclude one of the project’s key stakeholders: residents along the 6/10 corridor.
What’s the hurry?
With the news of the failed grant bid, maybe we can slow this project down and build something smarter. Thankfully, Providence Planning seems to be leading that effort.
The final result of this project doesn’t have to be an engineering marvel. And instead of just a maintenance chore this can be a success story – one that can be added to the dozens of urban highway removal success stories worldwide. All the project needs is to work invisibly and equally for all, without being the eyesore that it is today.
RIDOT first needs to abandon its 1950s highway-first mentality and reframe this project in way that benefits more than just the suburban commuter. This isn’t just an artery to shuttle workers in and out of Providence. We’ve already got highways, roads, trains, and buses for that. This is an opportunity to heal a scar that has severed neighborhoods, hindered tax growth, and stymied development through a vast section of Rhode Island’s urban core.
Oh, and public contest, branding effort, whatever it takes – the name “Route 10” needs to die along with the philosophy that built it in the first place.
(But maybe not “Roady McRoadface.”)
Links to thoughts
Feds Reject 175 Million Grant for 6/10 Interchange Project [Providence Journal]
RIDOT 6/10 Connector Presentation
6/10 Design Proposal [Moving Together Providence]
RIDOT, City of Providence at Odds Over Future of 6/10 Connector [EcoRI]
RIDOT 6/10 Dig a Bad Deal for Rhode Island [WPRO]
Driver’s Argument for a 6/10 Boulevard [RI Future]
Providence Working Up Its Own 6/10 Redesign [Providence Journal]
Image: “Rebuilding & Reimagining: Route 6-10 Connector,” RI Department of Transportation[where: 02910]
Michael Leeds, a sports economist at Temple University, told Southern California Public Radio that the one thing economists can agree on is that sports stadiums have little to no impact on the local economy. “If you ever had a consensus in economics, this would be it,”more
Groundhog Day in August. A public demonstration against cuts to Rhode Island Public Transit Authority service was held today in Kennedy Plaza. It’s sad that cuts are looming.more
There was an Ordinance Committee meeting preceded by an Finance Committee meeting at Cranston City Hall last night. I know, why the hell would anyone go to that double-header? The masochists turned out in droves.more
This video makes a compelling case for the introduction of true high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor. The Corridor’s $3 trillion economy, which is 20% of the nation’s total, is relying on infrastructure that’s hundreds of years old.more
The commuter rail station at T.F. Green airport in Warwick is set to open on October 27. The building, called the InterLink, includes a parking garage, car rental facilities, a RIPTA bus stop and moving walkways that connect the station to the airport terminal. The tentative schedule calls for 3 commuter trains from Warwick in the morning, and 3 return trains. The details of the schedule are being finalized by RIDOT and the MBTA.more