WESTERLY — Members of the Town Council have expressed support for a planned bicycle and pedestrian lane loop in Misquamicut that would be separated from motorists on four roadways by a painted line.
Three alternatives had been developed by a consultant, and the alternative favored by the council is the least expensive and would require the least amount of construction.
The councilors’ opinions aligned with several recommendations offered by the Pare Corp., the Lincoln-based firm hired by the council to conduct a feasibility study of the loop, which had been suggested by the town’s Bicycle Path Study Committee.
The committee proposed a loop along Shore Road, Weekapaug Road, Atlantic Avenue and Winnapaug Road.
“After assessing all potential alternatives along with their costs and impacts, it is recommended that the town consider phased construction. The town could first utilize the funds that have been granted to implement the formalization of bike lanes on all four roadways. The town could then seek additional funding to convert to a two-way path where possible, with preferential order to Shore Road first,” the company’s report said.
The consultant’s three alternatives ranged in cost from an estimated $129,000 for the one favored by members of the Town Council to $6.79 million. The town has been approved for a $300,000 grant through the state Green Economy Bond to be used for a multiuse path (for bicycling, jogging, walking etc.). The funds must be used for a path that is oriented toward Shore Road and do not require an additional contribution from the town.
The lowest cost alternative would be a dedicated lane separated from the roadways with a painted line and painted markings in the bicycle lane. Signs would also be posted. The Shore Road portion would have bicycle lanes on both sides of the road. A 4-foot-wide bicycle lane would be established on both sides of Weekapaug Road by reducing the width of the motor vehicle travel lanes to 10 feet. Five-foot bicycle lanes would be established on both sides of Atlantic Avenue. Four-foot bicycle lanes would be established on Winnapaug Road by narrowing the travel lanes to 10 feet.
Alternatives B and C, the more expensive designs, would entail the use of buffers to separate the bicycle lanes from motor vehicles, and wider bicycle lanes that would allow two-way bicycle travel. These alternatives would also require installation of a retaining wall along parts of Shore Road, and could involve the acquisition of private property, perhaps through eminent purchases.
Councilor Jean Gagnier said the painted lanes in Alternative A would help remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists. Councilor William Aiello called Alternative A affordable and doable. “Alternative A looks like a pretty good option,” he said.
Councilor Mario Celico said he too would support Alternative A. He said he was not inclined to support using the $300,000 to design Alternatives B and C for fear that the designs would never be acted upon.
Town officials said the state funds can be used for design or construction. If the money were used for design, additional grant funds would be sought for construction.
The consultant’s report will now move to the Bicycle Path Study Committee for additional input.