2018-12-06 / Opinion

Bridge to Tomorrow

To the Editor:

Bridges are built to unite people and communities. Have you ever walked across the Pell Bridge? Well over 3,000 people do it every year on an early Sunday morning in October. They do it for charity and the awesome views! It happens only once a year, organized by Citizens Bank. So I was very excited to read about the proposal to build a pedestrian walkway and bike bath across the Pell Bridge.

The Pell Bridge began construction in 1966 as part of the nationwide upgrade to our infrastructure. In 1966, as we were building-out of the Interstate highway system, it was all about the automobile…. cars, cars and more cars. No one considered the pedestrian. This was not always the case. In 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge was opened to all types of traffic. Over the years, the Brooklyn Bridge has undergone several reconfigurations; it formerly carried horse-drawn carriages and elevated railway lines, but now carries vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic. In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened to motor vehicles, pedestrians and bicycle traffic. I have personally bicycled across the Golden Gate Bridge and it is a wonderful experience. The Sydney (Australia) Harbor Bridge built in 1937 has pedestrian traffic, 2,000 bicycles a day cross from one side to the other. They even have "BridgeClimb tours" where you can walk along the top of the arches.

All three of these bridges, because of the walkways have themselves become tourist destinations and landmarks. So why not Newport? Why not the Jamestown bridge to provide easy access to bike friendly route 1A. Why not the Mount Hope bridge with access to the East Bay bike path? The Sakonnet River Bridge has incorporated a bike path and walking lane with great popular support.

The RI Department of Transportation will be spending over $40 million realigning the Pell bridge ramps and the freeing up of 32 acres for future development. The discussion of future walkways and bike paths on our bridges complement this present development plan. The state owned railway tracks that run parallel to Americas Cup Ave could easily become the gateway to the proposed bridge walkways. As far as the costs are concerned I believe that the benefits outweigh the cost. Tax dollars are not wasted when spent for the public good. Infrastructure improvements create more good paying jobs. Most of the money will come from Washington D.C., Rhode Island is a small state but with a large presence in the Senate. I hope that more people get behind this visionary project and help create the momentum we need to achieve this goal. It is an exciting time and I am happy to support the bike pathway project across the Pell Bridge.

Bill Fitzgerald

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