Editorial: State is intent on abandoning bike path bridges

Posted 5/21/21

The DOT was looking for approval for its new detour plan. What it received was an earful from residents and political leaders about how important the East Bay Bike Path bridges are.

Unfortunately, …

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Editorial: State is intent on abandoning bike path bridges

Posted

The DOT was looking for approval for its new detour plan. What it received was an earful from residents and political leaders about how important the East Bay Bike Path bridges are.

Unfortunately, all the comments seemed to fall on deaf ears. 

During a special forum to discuss the bike path bridge detour, DOT Engineer Bob Rocchio refused to commit to replacing the bridges. Instead, he said the RI Department of Transportation was going to consider the detour’s “concept” as a potential permanent solution.

Throughout the forum, Mr. Rocchio repeated the company line. Even when he was pressed by council members, legislators and residents, he would not offer any assurances that the bike path bridges would be replaced. 

This has been the DOT’s plan all along — the gradual but eventual abandonment of the bike path bridges.

First the state closed off the sidewalks, then it shut down the bridges themselves, and finally it built a detour that officials seem intent on turning into a permanent feature. 

The excuses for not rebuilding the bike path bridges are weak: the cost estimates have increased; the permitting is tedious; the state needs more time to figure out a solution.

East Bay residents have heard it all before, and we’re not buying it.

The project has been on the state’s radar for years. In fact, Barrington Town Council member Carl Kustell pointed out that the town’s comprehensive plan from 2015 clearly stated that the bridges would be replaced in 2016. 

But as history has shown, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation does not spend too much time worrying about projects in Barrington and across other parts of the East Bay. Nayatt Road was a minefield before the state finally agreed to repave it, and the Barrington River Bridge replacement project took 10 years to complete and cost more than twice the original estimate. 

People who tuned in to watch the recent forum offered reminders to the Mr. Rocchio about the state’s track record with DOT projects in the East Bay.

And now it looks like we can add the bike path bridges to that list, too. 

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.