Providence’s new linear park, named for East Bay Bike Path founder George Redman (“Not a politician,” quoth Greater City Providence), opened in time for yesterday’s July Fourth fireworks. We drove to East Providence over the Washington Bridge, built in 1931, parked and walked back over its splendidly renovated pedestrian/bike span with our friends Dan and Shoko Gordon, whose daughter Caroline is buddies with our boy Billy, to view the fireworks and listen to the ever-lovely Rhode Island Philharmonic.
This new bridge park is a brilliant piece of work. The original bridge over the Seekonk (which merges with the Providence to form the peninsula of the capital city’s East Side) had a bike and pedestrian path so narrow that you had to duck into the occasional bay if someone was coming from the other direction. Now, its bike path is separate from its pedestrian path. The whole is lined with elegant wrought-iron railings and beautiful period lampposts. There are elegant classical buttresses marking the way. The small buildings that once housed machinery to draw open the center of the bridge have been cleaned off and lovingly restored. With its beauty and its splendid views, the bridge, which had been closed for the work since 2012, is a wonderful experience to cross.
Joan Slafsky says this new linear park is Providence’s High Line!
If the proposed pedestrian bridge over the Providence River had been designed likewise with beauty in mind, it would probably be built by now.
Rhode Island’s Department of Transportation has recently been criticized for how many of its bridges are in disrepair. But so far none has fallen! I think RIDOT also needs to be celebrated for its mammoth achievements over the past 40 years. It has buried Amtrak’s rails under the State House lawn, moved and opened downtown rivers long ignored, lined these rivers with walkways, built traditional arched bridges along the way that replaced the so-called “widest bridge in the world” (Guinness) – which looked like a huge sewer cover – and restored the state’s reputation for beautiful spans, then RIDOT relocated Route 195 to the far side of the Hurricane Barrier, opening an entire new development district for the city’s growth while also reknitting sections of downtown severed by the highway, and then finally it ran the new highway over another beautiful bridge – which should be named for the designer-in-chief of this excellent work, Bill Warner.
The result of all this new “transportation” infrastructure, topped by the George Redman Linear Park, has increased the quality of life for every Rhode Islander. Let’s give RIDOT credit for that. They have done a beautiful job. The pictures of the new span below could be augmented by many hundreds of other shots I’ve taken over the years of the city’s new waterfront, almost all of it traditional in its design. It has beautified beyond all desserts our little, often ridiculously corrupt, corner of world.