In response to a petition signed by more than 70 residents calling for road improvements on West Main Street in Wickford, local elected leaders met with state Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti last week and created a plan to address some of the ongoing problems.
“It was a good meeting,” said Town Councilor Ellen Waxman, a Democrat who was joined by independent Councilor Kevin Maloney and state Rep. Robert Craven (D-Dist. 32) of North Kingstown at Friday’s meeting. “They want to help.”
“This is not a project that is going to still be unresolved by the time winter returns,” Craven noted.
Residents and business owners who live on West Main Street – which some refer to as the “Gateway to Wickford” – have long complained about the shoddy condition of sidewalks, deteriorating road conditions, drainage problems that cause basement flooding and issues regarding speed and crosswalks.
In September, the Wickford Planning Committee presented a report on the mile-long stretch of road into Wickford village to the Town Council that offered a number of suggestions and requests.
Those requests included new sidewalks, more on-street parking, narrower travel lanes and the installation of pedestrian “bump outs.” It also called for a “complete physical redevelopment” of the road and drainage system.
The report described West Main Street – which is a state-owned road that is part of Route 1A – as a problem that has been “neglected for too long” and included pictures highlighting the deterioration of sidewalks and the roadway itself.
No actions was taken in the nine months since the committee presented its report, and last month a petition calling for action was distributed to the Town Council, Craven, state Sen. James Sheehan (D-Dist. 36) of North Kingstown and Narragansett, Town Manager Michael Embury and Planning Director Nicole LaFontaine.
In the petition, residents said they “remain ignored as our road disintegrates and as many of our houses are threatened by constant shaking as trucks rumble down the pot hole and trench-filled road into Wickford or exiting Wickford at speeds well above posted limits.”
Craven and Waxman said that Alviti spent about 90 minutes meeting with North Kingstown officials and began by outlining the fiscal constraints the DOT has, along with numerous projects throughout the state that are in critical need of being addressed.
While a complete physical redevelopment of West Main Street is something that can’t be dealt with in the near future, Craven said the DOT would be willing to repaint crosswalks with a cross hatch design, install a permanent radar speed sign that shows the posted speed limit and a vehicle’s actual driving speed and resurface portions of the road – specifically the area in front of Cranston-Murphy Funeral Home.
“They understand that’s probably not a permanent solution, but it’s a solution that will calm it down,” he said. “We’ll have to await funding from the feds to do a permanent upgrade of that road completely and hopefully it will coincide with a decision, either way, on if the town will sewer that stretch of road.”
DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said the proposed radar speed sign would have to be maintained by the town.
“Regarding the speed alert sign for West Main Street, the State Traffic Commission has reviewed the use of the sign – similar to a flashing school sign – to provide driver feedback on speed,” he said via email. “The current proposal is that the Commission would approve the sign if the town agrees to install and maintain the device.”
In June 2014, voters overwhelmingly approved a $4.9 million bond to pay for the installation of sewers in Wickford for 52 commercial properties along Brown Street and portions of Main, West Main and Phillips streets.
Alviti said he would send DOT employees to the area during the next significant rainstorm to observe road drainage and determine if pipes need to be cleaned out or replaced with larger ones.
“RIDOT will investigate and clean and/or repair the drainage line on West Main Street where on-street flooding is an issue,” St. Martin confirmed. “The Department will make improvements to the pavement as needed in order to improve conditions between now and a full resurfacing. That larger project is not scheduled for several years due to funding constraints.”