By RACHEL PLAYE & JAMES KENNEDY
Riverzedge Riverfest set the stage for Woonsocket to announce its ambitious hopes (pdf) for its Main Street and other sections of town. The plans were prepared by VHB, the consulting firm our blog has criticized for not being far-reaching enough in Providence. This has led us to wonder what about Woonsocket's government or other conditions explains this disparity. In Providence, planners have been adamant that bike lanes cannot affect parking, have mostly left out major routes as a focus of change, and have instead opted for minor and often unnecessary "improvements" to backstreets which provide little access to businesses or workplaces. The Woonsocket plan discusses major routes as a focus for improvement, and includes the creation of physically separated facilities, something VHB engineer Bill DiSantis has criticized in the context of Providence. The Woonsocket plan also includes improvements for pedestrians and transit users, which we find equally exciting as frequent riders of the 54 bus.
Woonsocket, which has struggled as a depressed mill town since the 1960s, may need just this kind of plan to see its historic downtown revived.
From the report:
Of primary importance in the Main Street Livability Plan are roadway-related improvements that enhance safety and accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists. A more pedestrian and bike-friendly downtown will also improve the aesthetic quality of downtown and encourage economic development.
• Improve pedestrian environment along Main Street: Enhanced crosswalks, curb ramps and bump outs will improve accessibility and safety for pedestrians. Additionally, wider sidewalks instrategic locations will provide space for cafe tables, landscaping, bike racks and benches.• Reconfigure Monument Square: Currently crossing Main, Social or Blackstone Street near Monument Square on foot is difficult due to the intersection geometry and traffic flow. Enlarging the island that the monument sits on - along with bump outs and new high-visibility crosswalks--will improve pedestrian safety and accessibility at this busy intersection.• Provide additional pedestrian, bicycle and ADA connections to the river: In the long-term, a switchback ramp can connect the proposed bikeway to the Court Street Bridge and provide a fully-accessible connection to the Blackstone River, downriver from the Bernon Street Bridge.• Improve bicycle connections into downtown: Bike lanes along the Bernon Street Bridge and shared lane markings on the South Main Street Bridge will promote access from the adjacent neighborhoods to the Blackstone River Bikeway and to downtown in general.
Riverfest organizer Kelly Griffith greeted the changes as "vital to the economic and physical health of Woonsocket."