Design Committee Unveils More Than Bridge

Design Committee Unveils More Than Bridge

The bridge design meeting was informative the way a college lecture is informative, but also fun to the same degree. There was much referring to “my good friend

Design Committee Unveils More Than Bridge

The bridge design meeting was informative the way a college lecture is informative, but also fun to the same degree. There was much referring to “my good friend” and a lot of talk about private phone calls that were at the core of the project.

Which is my point exactly, but I get ahead of myself.

Richard Kazarian gave a talk on the origins of the project – per above – and all the “dozens of public meetings” that they held. That led to an even longer talk about architecture, something about “the highest echelons of architectural debate.” Public architecture, public works, the politics of Pawtucket City Hall, a bold modern work built during the Great Depression, art deco decorative elements, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Then he talked about the great responsibility to build a bridge that we could be proud of and the kind of bridge that should be and the inspiration they could draw from the rich architectural history.

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And then he showed the images we saw, like, weeks ago.

Important New Information

Then planning director Mike Cassidy talked about some very interesting stuff that had been secret.

The former Pride Hyundai will serve as the project headquarters, and later this land will house the bridge runoff holding tank. This will be landscaped and part of a larger, eastern slope landscaping. Moving the eastern piling up the slope, as the plan does, opens up enough space for a pedestrian path from the Division St bridge under the new bridge and up to the Apex parking lot. For why are they building this? They didn’t say.

Also, the intersection of Division/Grace/Pleasant/Pawtucket Ave will be reconfigured so that southbound traffic on Pleasant will be able to cross Division/Grace and continue on Pleasant. Imagine that: a Pawtucket street that connects with itself. Traffic could also go up the orphan block of Pawtucket Ave, meaning it would be one-way but in the opposite direction. Would the intersecting block of East Ave be reversed as well? Much strangeness, many questions, few answers. (I’ll make an annotated map of this and the stuff below and post it separately.)

When he took questions, I asked about exactly how these meetings were made public. Cassidy said they had put an ad in the paper. I followed up, asking if that were the only media outlet they contacted. He said that a press release was sent to “all kinds of news bureaus”.

I’m not sure how much interest the AP has in a small city’s task force meeting. But I get press releases from the state that are less important. (Seriously, you wouldn’t believe what state legislators think a newspaper is going to run.) If you looked at my email, you’d think that a woman named Meredith is my #1 squeeze, but she just runs one of the state’s media lists. I’m sure she’d share it with the city of Pawtucket.

I’ve searched all over this great big Internet of ours, and I have found absolutely nothing anywhere. I challenge anybody to send me anything – ANYTHING – that proves that these were, in fact, public meetings. Does the City have a tearsheet they can produce?

I know at least one individual who participated in these meetings AND who regularly comments on this very blog. That that individual did not bring these meetings to the attention of this highly engaged, highly passionate community only shows what the city thinks about its regular citizens – not a lot.

I know others involved in these meetings that have (or at least had at the time) their own community-oriented blog. Yet these meetings never showed up on that resource either.

Seriously, it makes you wonder if I’m all too correct in the things I say about the secret way this town runs its business.

My Same Boring, Insignificant Pedestrian Issues

Since so much attention had been paid to the eastern slope – where nobody and nothing is – I asked if they’d thought about the western slope where the people are. Cassidy had mentioned that the official bike path will go to the east of Taft St, because the western piling will be on the western side of Taft.

Had they given any thought to connecting the three elevations – Taft, Pleasant and George – with stairs or ramps? “No.” It would only provide a direct path from the city’s one and only hotel to its new riverfront attraction. But why would you want to go ahead and do that?

Would the Pleasant St tunnel have wider sidewalks? “They won’t be smaller.” He was getting cheesed with me, so I backed off and didn’t ask about putting jersey barriers between the sidewalk and the road.

I learned later – from the press release I found searching for public meetings info – that the George, Pine and Garden St overpasses will be repaired. It certainly would be great if those crossings were widened and jersey barriers installed. The latter two could both go on a road diet.

Road diet in P’t'ck’t? What the hell is that?

On the upside, it seems that both Pleasant AND Taft will be closed during the construction (2+ years). It’s unclear if they’ll be closed at the same time or for how long, but from the language in a letter from RIDOT to the city – that I also found looking for some sort of public notification – both roads will be closed for the duration. Let’s hope I’m wrong on that.

Can We Get There From Here?

This project is on a very fast track. It’s to be planned and permitted this summer and bid this fall. My instinct tells me it’s too late for any meaningful changes to the pedestrian plans. This is a bridge. Bridges are for cars.

They have made it abundantly clear that actual people who live with this bridge count the least. (Did anybody see my Pecha Kucha presso on the Apex Building? “Pawtucket is designed entirely from the car’s point of view.”)

Cassidy indicated that additional input would be possible, but gave no specifics about how that might happen. I guess I’ll go wait by my phone.

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