The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) April 28 hosted a ribbon-cutting event to dedicate the next segment of the Blackstone River Bikeway in Lincoln and Cumberland. The new path is 1 mi. (1.6 km) long and extends the bike path south to Valley Falls Heritage Park in the area of Cumberland Town Hall.
The newest segment extends the bikeway to 10.3 mi. (16.6 km) in each direction, from Cumberland to Woonsocket. This portion of the bikeway is known as Segment 4A and is the sixth contract RIDOT has completed since the first stretch of path was opened in 1998.
The most striking feature of this new bike path segment is a 14-ft. (4.3 m) wide, 540-ft. (165 m) long elevated boardwalk that allows the bikeway to pass through the Lonsdale Marsh in an environmentally responsible manner while offering an up-close look at the wildlife that inhabits the marsh.
“This environmentally sensitive feature allows the bikeway to continue on an off-road path while not disturbing the flow of water in the marsh — something that is critical during times of high river levels,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “Combined with the restoration of the Lonsdale Drive-In into a scenic meadow and wetland, these projects improve the ecology of the river while allowing everyone access.”
This new section begins at the former Lonsdale Drive-In on John Street in Lincoln. The path passes over the John Street Bridge (separated from traffic by a barrier) into Cumberland. The path then crosses John Street and leads to the boardwalk. After leaving the marsh, cyclists will use a handful of local roads to get to Broad Street, opposite Valley Falls Heritage Park. Another short bike path section extends into the park, which marks the end of the bike path. The park itself has a series of switchback ramps that allow visitors to get close to the Blackstone River.
“The continuing expansion of the path provides better access to historic areas along the river that otherwise might be overlooked,” Lewis said. “Each area on its own may not attract much attention, but when linked together by the bikeway, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.”
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission are important partners with RIDOT in developing the bike path in the Blackstone Valley. One of the commission’s goals is to oversee completion of the bikeway not only in Rhode Island, but in Massachusetts. When finished, the entire 48-mi. (77 km) bikeway will run from Providence to Worcester, Mass.
“We are thrilled to see another section of the Blackstone River Bikeway opening just in time for the cycling season,” said Jan Reitsma, executive director of the Corridor Commission. “This bikeway symbolizes what can happen when local, State and Federal agencies work together to leverage plans and funding to make dreams reality. In addition to its wonderful recreational qualities, this pathway is fast becoming a transportation alternative for many and a signature asset of the National Heritage Corridor.”
The Corridor Commission, in partnership with numerous groups and agencies, offers educational and recreational programs throughout the year including events on the river and the bikeway. A major new effort is the Blackstone River Valley Bikeway Patrol, which is debuting this year. This group of volunteer riders will ride regularly on the path and provide a range of services from historic interpretation of the sites riders pass on the bikeway to minor bike repairs such as help with patching a flat tire. The patrol has coordinated with RIDEM, which maintains the bikeway, to organize a series of Sunday morning rides in the spring and summer.
“The Blackstone Bikeway is one of the jewels of the Blackstone River Valley and has made a significant part of Rhode Island’s natural heritage more accessible to the public,” said DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan.
Later this year, RIDOT will be working on the northern end of the bikeway in Woonsocket. The Department is working cooperatively with the city of Woonsocket on a 1-mi. path segment in that City. Additionally, RIDOT this year hopes to construct a 2,000-ft. (610 m) path that will connect the bikeway to the new segment the city is building.
RIDOT is considering three other segments that would extend the bikeway south toward Pawtucket and Providence and north to the Massachusetts line. When completed, the Blackstone River Bikeway will be approximately 19 mi. (30.6 km) long in Rhode Island and one of the longest bike paths in the state.
The new segment of bikeway that RIDOT opened April 28 was designed by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin of Providence and built by A. Korey Construction of Providence for $3.9 million.