The next big Providence project for a city that has seen many might be to turn the old Route 6/10 connector into a boulevard. The Providence Journal reports that the state’s transportation authorities seem surprisingly receptive to the idea as an alternative to replacing one monstrosity with another.
The Route 6/10 connector is the gulch you look into from your table at DePasquale Square on Federal Hill. It merges the two highways that carry traffic back and forth between downtown and points west – from the neighborhoods of Olneyville and Hartford Park to the city of Hartford, Conn.
Parts of the old connector feel as if they are shaking from the weight of traffic – or maybe that’s just potholes.
Bike and transit advocate James Kennedy has been leading the charge for this idea, along with the Coalition for Transportation Choices, Move Together PVD, and other transit-oriented civic groups. Here is the Journal’s article, “Rethinking the 6/10 Connector,” by Patrick Anderson, that describes the state of play on the 6/10. The Architect’s Newspaper has more: “This Tangle of Highways in Providence RI Could Give Way to a Green Boulevard.”
The state has to fix the aging highway just as it is now fixing Route 95’s old segment through downtown, an expensive project already delayed. Route 195’s deteriorated and unsafe span over the Providence River has been relocated and replaced with a redevelopment corridor. The city that once contemplated running Route 195 right up the river to the edge of the State House lawn (in the ’50s, of course) has removed the road from atop its river (the former world’s widest bridge according to the Guinness Book of World Records) and laid down a new waterfront with a dozen elegant bridges lined by parks and river walks. That project, conceived by the late architect Bill Warner, involved burying the Northeast Corridor rails under Smith Hill and moving the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers as they merged at the head of the Providence River.
In short, given what Providence and Rhode Island (and the feds) have done over the past three decades, the idea of ripping down the 6/10 connector and replacing it with a tree-lined boulevard at ground level seems almost Simple Simon. It is a no-brainer. Except for the foregoing history, it is exactly the sort of brilliant plan that most city and state transportation bureaucracies might be expected to reject out of hand.
(As ours did when it came to the brilliant idea for a Ship Street Canal, conceived by architect Paul Pawlowski in the 2000s. This would have made the 195 corridor much more attractive to developers. Its rejection by both the city and the state will be paid for by successive rounds of tax incentives and subsidies. They will cost Rhode Island dearly even if they succeed in sparking development, which looks like an iffy proposition right now).
I recall when Providence was daylighting its rivers, revitalizing the old downtown with loft rehabs by Buff Chace, and building Providence Place there was much talk that “the neighborhoods” were being stiffed by all this downtown development: an error in judgment, as downtown is for everyone’s benefit, and its development creates jobs and enriches the city physically and financially. But there’s no doubt who this boulevard idea would benefit. It would be, arguably, a first really major effort to spend not only money but creativity and imagination directly to the advantage of what largely are disadvantaged Providence neighborhoods.
City and state leaders should start to really push this idea. Who knows, some people might end up thinking it was their idea.
[This post goes onto my blog but not out to my blog send list recipients until my email server quits intercepting my bulk posts under the suspicion that they are spam. I am sorry to say that for the time being those who want to read my posts will have to visit my blog, or get them on social media. I will see if I can send to TradArch and Pro-Urb lists without punishment. – David Brussat]