Paving West Beach Road
West Beach Road is finally getting paved, from Corn Neck down to the Transfer Station. Paving will start Monday, Oct. 18, and last all week.
Highways Department Supervisor Mike Shea told the Town Council in 2016: “That road is the most traveled dirt road on the island,” Town Manager Maryanne Crawford said at the council meeting on Thursday, October 7. It’s true, by the numbers, since every resident and business travels that road almost weekly, unless they have home pick-up for their garbage. The council has been working on getting it paved for years, as it creates a continual problem with dirt and gravel being swept out onto Corn Neck Road by all the traffic. Crawford called the dirt a “safety issue” for bikes and mopeds.
Crawford reported that the road department spends $30,000 annually on upkeep of this town-owned dirt road. She said the town had budgeted money for paving in 2018 and 2019, but determined it was not enough money either year. So, in 2020 and 2021, $1 million was approved at each of the financial town meetings for roads. Crawford told the council the $2 million has been used on paving projects such as Connecticut Avenue and Old Town Road, and now will be used for West Beach Road.
“We have funds available,” Crawford said, telling the council it would be $449,040 for the paving, with a final price tag of just under $500,000, including the engineering work.
Town Engineer Jim Geremia joined the council meeting via telephone to explain that the town would regrade the road and level out the low spots, as well as replace a failed drainage pipe along one side of the road.
Council Member Martha Ball expressed wonder that things were finally coming together: “Some of us are surprised this is actually happening.” Owner of Block Island Recycling Management, Sean McGarry, who has watched his garbage trucks and equipment get beaten up by the dirt road for years, echoed the sentiment: “It’s amazing that it’s happening.”
McGarry explained that Geremia had approached him about the scheduling, and they had worked out the details of closing the transfer station to allow the work to be done. The transfer station hours of operation changed at Columbus Day, from being open every day but Thursday during the summer, to the fall schedule of being open Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
“Essentially, we will [be closed] Tuesday and Wednesday only,” by allowing the work crews to commandeer the road on the weekdays. The work will take place starting Monday, Oct. 18, with only local residential traffic allowed on the road. The transfer station will be open on Saturday and Sunday, and work crews will return on Monday, Oct. 25 to finish the final layer.
Second Warden Sven Risom asked how far the paving would go, and if there was a way to improve the very end of the road, past the transfer station, which ends at the beach. Geremia agreed that every time Shea places material at the very end of the road “it gets washed out to sea,” but just past the transfer station the road falls under Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council jurisdiction. He said his opinion was that the road should be terminated just past the transfer station driveway with boulders or large rocks, leaving walking paths for beach access, but that the town would need to apply with CRMC to do it. Risom suggested the town should tackle that project over time as well.
McGarry recommended that residents should make arrangements to use the transfer station on the weekends, and that his company would work with the contract haulers, such as McPick, to arrange for their needs, possibly having them come in after hours to make their trash dumps.
Crawford reported that Chief of Police Matt Moynihan would be going door-to-door to the homeowners on West Beach Road to apprise them of the work schedule and keep them informed about road access.