NEWPORT – As cars and trucks sped past Hillside Avenue, about 25 residents and officials sat outside the James L. Maher Center on Thursday afternoon and listened to city engineers and consultants explain the improvements proposed for the calming of traffic on the roadway.
The biggest change would be a narrowing of traffic lanes and the addition of bike lanes on either side of Hillside Avenue.
“Lane narrowing is a proven method of reducing speed,” said Frank Marinaccio, engineer for Lincoln’s BETA group, city consultants who worked with William Riccio Jr., city utility manager and also an engineer. .
Paul Bannon, engineer and director of the BETA group, also participated in the discussion.
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Hillside Avenue is a main road for children attending Pell Elementary School, which is located on Dexter Street which runs along Hillside Avenue.
To pay for the improvements, the city requested federal Safe Routes to School funding administered by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. The city plans to submit the final design and construction documents to the state by September, which will review and approve them by October or November, Riccio said.
“We hope that the contract will be launched soon after and that it will be signed by the end of the year,” he said.
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“Speed bumps” would be installed on Hillside Avenue at the marked crosswalks of Dexter Street, Kennedy Street and Sunset Boulevard. These “fat ones” are a little different from traditional speed bumps in that they are wider, tilt up and down, and are rubberized raised platforms of varying heights.
If they don’t perform well, they can be picked up and possibly placed in another location, Riccio said. If they are successful in reducing the speed of traffic, they could be made permanent with asphalt elevations, he said.
Jennifer Jackson, a resident of Dudley Street which runs along Hillside Avenue, said she would eventually like to see elevated crosswalks in these places, such as on Dexter Street in front of the school.
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Digital speed feedback signs telling drivers how fast they are going and alerting them to the 25 mph speed limit would be installed at the intersections of Hillside Avenue with Dexter Street and Beacon Street. There would also be new speed limit signs along Hillside Avenue.
A key goal of the project is to slow down traffic on Hillside and make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Residents said many drivers used the avenue as a crossing and moved at high speeds.
Hillside Avenue Study Finds Higher Speed Rates
BETA engineers conducted a traffic study with electronic equipment measuring speeds, and found that over 85% of drivers were driving at speeds between 28 and 32 mph, which is above the displayed 25 mph. , but not significantly. They believe the proposed recommendations will reduce these speeds.
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In the marked crosswalks on Dexter Street, Kennedy Street and Sunset Boulevard, there would be vertical crosswalk signs as seen in other crosswalks in the city, such as on Broadway.
The project would also install a new sidewalk on the west side of Hillside Avenue, near the Maher Center, where there is a gap in the continuity of the sidewalk.
Residents like Jackson and Phyllis Mulligan, who live on Hillside Avenue, said they would rather see a dedicated bike path separated from the roadway on one side of Hillside Avenue rather than narrow 5-foot-wide bike paths on either side. .
Frank Landry, another Hillside Avenue resident, also criticized the proposed marked bike paths. “Several cyclists go to the hospital,” he said.
“The most complete street we have in the city”
Riccio said building a cycle path separate from the road would require major design changes that are beyond the scope of the current project. Because the city’s streets are so narrow that they don’t even have bicycle lanes, Riccio said. The only bike paths in the city so far are on public roads like Memorial Boulevard.
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“It will be the first street in the city with cycle lanes,” he said. “If Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg could do it in New York, why couldn’t we do it in Newport? It will be the most complete street we have in town when we’re done. “
Complete Streets is a transport policy that aims at safe street design for people of all ages and abilities, whether they travel as drivers, pedestrians, cyclists or users of public transport.
“For the students, having bike paths and sidewalks on both sides of the street will be an advantage,” said Louisa Boatwright, school committee member.
City Councilor Angela McCalla, who represents Ward 1 in the North End, asked residents to give the proposed changes a chance. She said additional measures could be taken if they are not effective enough.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” she said. “Just having a dedicated space for bikes will be safer.”