West Side Road getting new sidewalk

State funded at $1.2 million
Thu, 07/18/2019 - 7:00pm
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The Town of New Shoreham will be installing a new, half-mile long, pedestrian sidewalk on the north side of West Side Road from Ocean Avenue to the entrance at Champlin’s Marina. The $1.2 million project will be funded entirely by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and is expected to be completed by late fall. 

Once it is installed, pedestrians traveling to destinations along the road from the intersection of Ocean Avenue will no longer have to encroach on the road, and dodge vehicular, moped and bike traffic. The sidewalk has been a long-gestating project for New Shoreham town officials, who have stressed the need for public safety along that portion of road, which is heavily traveled during the summer season.

“When you talk about the need for a safety component I think this is one of those no-brainer projects that is really needed,” said Town Manager Ed Roberge, referencing a design schematic while presenting the project to the town council at its meeting Wednesday night. Roberge said pedestrians “don’t really have a place to walk” when traveling on the road. Roberge noted that the driveways along that portion of road “will remain active and accessible, require a little bit of slope work,” and drainage will be properly addressed.

Roberge said, “It’s about a $1.2 million project — the engineer’s estimate — that will be funded by the Department of Transportation. The town will be providing the design, which has been completed over the last several years. We expect the project to take 10 to 12 weeks to complete. We would like the contract to be awarded by around Labor Day, so the project can be completed by November.” 

“We’re working on the final design now,” said Roberge. “We have historical, environmental and cultural approvals in place. The DOT is reviewing our contract documents as we speak. We’re hoping the package is completed by the end of July, which will allow us to advertise bids for the project. The bid documents are ready.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste asked Roberge if the sidewalk would have handicap access. 

“Each one of the driveways will have an accessible (handicap) panel at each of those locations along the road. That is required,” said Roberge. 

Second Warden André Boudreau said he was “glad” that the sidewalk was finally being installed, noting that it’s been years in the making.

“It’s been a long haul,” said Roberge. 

Councilor Sven Risom asked Roberge if he could “talk about the curb design of the sidewalk,” and how it would impact traffic and parking.

“There’s a six-inch curb reveal between the roadway and the sidewalk,” said Roberge. “That’s important to separate vehicles from pedestrian traffic on the road.” He noted that “there should be no parking along that side of the street.”

As for the weekly Farmers Market, Roberge said he attended the recent farmer’s market to survey the parking situation. He said some of the vendors parked their vehicles where the sidewalk would be installed, but noted that parking shouldn’t be an issue. “There’s certainly plenty of space in the HK lot, which we want to encourage folks to use,” he said.    

Painted rock vandalism

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Councilor Sven Risom expressed his dismay over the recent vandalism of Painted Rock, which created a firestorm of a discussion on The Times’ Facebook page. 

“While I know it’s a relatively minor thing in the world, somebody destroyed what I consider to be an iconic piece of Block Island,” said Risom, noting that it’s a popular photograph-taking landmark. “I think we should consider that a violation of town property.” Risom wants the town council to place the topic on a future agenda for discussion.

Lacoste asked Risom for an explanation of what occurred at painted rock. In response, Risom said, “Somebody took a chunk out of the rock’s foundation — they broke a piece off, and drilled holes in the rock. They took a drill bit and drilled holes in it. You can see it.” The vandalism, he said, “Is similar to spray painting” the Mill Pond bridge on Old Town Road.

“Clearly, it’s not the person who posted it” on Facebook, said Councilor Martha Ball, noting that she thought “people are getting a little carried away.”

“I don’t know,” said Risom.

New Shoreham Police Chief, Vin Carlone, who was in attendance, and presented his quarterly report, said that his department spoke with the man who posted a piece of the rock on his Facebook page. “We do not believe it was him,” said Chief Carlone. 

Chamber of Commerce issues

Cindy Lasser, Executive Director of the Block Island Chamber of Commerce, invited the town council members to the Chamber’s office during a busy time of day so they could witness the traffic at the facility. Lasser wants the council to see “the difficulties of the space” at Old Harbor, and how “dangerous” it is. She also noted the “ongoing problem of garbage,” and the inadequacy of the amenities “for the amount of people” that frequent the facility. She encouraged the town to find some solutions to address the facility’s issues.

The next town council meeting is Monday, August 5 at 7 p.m.