Plan for two-way Broadway in Pawtucket moves forward
Plan for two-way Broadway in Pawtucket moves forward
PAWTUCKET - Some city officials are expressing concerns about a proposal to convert a 1,000-foot section of Broadway into a two-way street, but the doubts about the project won't keep it from moving forward.
Planning and Redevelopment Director Barney Heath said the plan "opens up all of Broadway," making it easier for motorists to get to local businesses and enhancing public safety, among other benefits.
Converting the section from Exchange Street to Kossuth Street into a two-way stretch "makes economic sense" for the city, said Heath, making it "so much easier to get to all of Broadway."
Heath and other members of Mayor Donald Grebien's administration made the case for a two-way Broadway at a City Council meeting two weeks ago. They said they expect the change to be a positive for traffic safety and traffic flow.
Grebien spokesman Dylan Zelazo said the timeframe to get the changes completed is dependent on the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, but said the hope is to have it done by the end of the 2014 work season.
The cost of the project will be about $100,000. Currently about 2,400 vehicles pass through the intersection at Broadway and Kossuth Street each day.
According to members of Grebien's administration, the "one-time investment" of $100,000 will also go a long way toward improving access to the city's downtown area.
Representatives from Doyle Manor say they're happy about the proposal because it's expected to improve access to their apartments on Broadway and enhance pedestrian safety.
City Councilor Thomas Hodge said he wonders whether the change will make much of a difference for the businesses on Broadway or for the downtown, especially given the small number of cars he sees on this stretch on certain days and at certain times, and he's concerned about safety for pedestrians who are used to the way it is. Hodge also questioned why the project doesn't extend further down Broadway.
Zelazo said that expanding the project would require the addition of a traffic light, which by itself would be more costly than the current proposed project. Officials must identify additional revenue sources before extending the project, he said.
City Council President David Moran said he thinks the two-way project is really putting the "cart before the horse." If there were "real economic development going on" in the downtown, then he would think this is something the city needs, said Moran, but without "hustle and bustle," he doesn't really see the point right now.
Grebien's administration had better "dot their i's and cross their t's" to "make sure this thing works," said Moran, because it will be very difficult to reverse course if traffic jams and other problems result. The administration will have "egg on your face" if it doesn't work well, he said.
City Councilor Terrence Mercer, echoing other members of the council, said he sees "very little benefit" to changing this portion of Broadway to a two-way road. There are other projects where he feels the "money could be better spent," said Mercer.
Council members also questioned the wisdom of starting another two-way project when the one already initiated on East Avenue wasn't even done right, as it doesn't allow motorists to turn left onto Park Place. Public Works Director Lance Hill responded that the East Avenue project will be done at some point under an existing agreement with the Department of Transportation, but must wait for necessary approvals.
Heath said officials are trying to make the immediate changes they can make now to jump-start downtown economic development efforts instead of waiting for the DOT. Mercer responded that just because economic development is expected by Grebien's administration from the road projects doesn't mean it will actually happen.
Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. said it's "admirable" what Grebien's administration is doing to "tie" streets together and make the city "a more viable place to do business." He agrees that safety for pedestrians should be a top concern as the project proceeds, said Vitali.
Money for the Broadway project is coming from city road maintenance bond money and Community Development Block Grant funding.
The conversion to a two-way Broadway would include lane restriping. The change would allow two-way traffic north and south all the way from Exchange Street and the Massachusetts state line.
The proposed project would also include:
* Intersection improvements at Kossuth Street and Broadway, including eliminating the island on Broadway for safer vehicle access from Kossuth Street onto Broadway;
* And intersection improvements at the I-95 North off-ramp and Broadway in the vicinity of Kossuth Street. Improvements would include stop signs for vehicles exiting the off-ramp to provide safer vehicle movement onto Broadway.
Aaron Hertzberg, executive director of the Pawtucket Foundation, said the foundation is in favor of the Broadway project. Reconfiguring traffic to allow it to go both ways will shorten the route for many people, benefiting businesses on Broadway, slowing down traffic, and make it easier to give directions, said Hertzberg.