Local group eyes funding of bike path studies

Local group eyes funding of bike path studies

The Westerly Sun

CHARLESTOWN — With the passage of the $35 million Green Economy Bond in November, Tri-Town Coastal Bike Route members are looking for preliminary funding for feasibility studies needed to document shovel-ready projects that could qualify for bond money. The bond includes $10 million for a State Bikeway Development Program.

The group, which includes state and local officials from Charlestown, South Kingstown, and Westerly, met for the first time in August and again in October to collaborate on the creation of a regional bike route along the coastline of southern Rhode Island.

Members from all three towns convened Wednesday at Charlestown Town Hall to discuss how to get on the state’s list of projects that qualified for the bond.

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, a planning and engineering firm with offices in Providence, did feasibility studies of the path in 1999 and 2007, but updates may be needed for project, or parts of it, to qualify as shovel-ready.

Fred DeGrooth Jr., chairman of the Westerly Bike Path Committee, said he called the firm to ask for feasibility study cost estimates for Westerly alone, for the three towns together, and/or for an update to previous studies.

“We’re at a point now where things are accelerating and it’s all around securing funding for a feasibility study and that would drive the construction project further on down the road,” he said. “We’re going Monday before the Town Council to request funding.”

At a recent joint goal-setting meeting between the council and department heads, the bike path ranked “extremely high” on both sides, said Westerly Town Council President James Silvestri. “That’s why I asked Fred to get us some pricing so we can interject it into our budget process and get it fully vetted to the finance board, town manager, and ultimately the Town Council,” he said.

Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Konicki urged group members to reach out to Rep. Teresa Tanzi, D-Wakefield, who is active in Paths to Progress Rhode Island. The coalition supports recreational and transportation paths and has mapped all of the bike paths in the state, whether in the planning phase or fully constructed.

“There’s some sort of a priority list that is being put together in anticipation of the funding being released — and I got a sense of urgency that [Tanzi] is putting it together for someone at the state level,” Konicki said.

On the Paths website, a coastal bikeway connecting the three towns is not marked. South Kingstown and Westerly have some bike paths, some inland, marked as shovel ready, in design, or proposed. No bike routes are marked in Charlestown.

Konicki also pointed out that the towns have about eight weeks to pull documentation together to be considered for Green Bond funding.

Doug McLean, town planner for South Kingstown, said that the town is still considering various routes for the coastal bike path, either via Route 1 or Matunuck Schoolhouse Road.

With the near completion of the 1.3 mile Ninigret Park Multi-Purpose Trail, Faith LaBoissiere, chair of the Bicycle Pathway Ad Hoc Group in Charlestown, said the next step was to create connections to the village center but that it wouldn’t be possible to create project plans in eight weeks.



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