Walk This Way: Significant Sidewalk Rebuild Wraps Up on Block Island

Wed October 29, 2008 - Northeast Edition
James A. Merolla



They call it “Block,” but, from the air, it looks more like a split comma in the ocean; a punctuation mark sitting outside and under Rhode Island; a slight pause telling visitors from the sea, “Wait. You haven’t seen all of this wonderful Ocean State, unless you stop here.”

New Shoreham — or as it is most popularly known, Block Island — was named for Shoreham, Kent in England. A single island town, it has a total area of 109.5 sq. mi., of which 9.7 sq. mi. is land and 99.8 sq. mi. is water, and now, it also has 10,000 linear ft. of new concrete sidewalks.

It isn’t the 1,100 residents, which have worn them down. It’s the tens of thousands of boating tourists who sail, motor, fish, swim, glide and tan on its clean beaches and fabulous summer homes.

On June 25, The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) hosted a dedication ceremony to mark the completion of the Bridgegate Square project in New Shoreham, on Block Island.

The $2.5 million project involved a complete reconstruction of one of the island’s busiest intersections in the Old Harbor district, where most of the ferries land, bringing in scores of summer visitors from the Atlantic Seaboard mainland, from New Brunswick, Canada, to Miami, Fla., and beyond.

Walk This Way

RIDOT also oversaw the rebuilding of many sidewalks along the waterfront, including making numerous improvements to bring the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In total, 10,000 linear ft. (3,048 m) of sidewalk was rebuilt.

“The department and the town of New Shoreham have been working together on this project for many years,” RIDOT Director Michael Lewis said at the dedication ceremony. “It is with great satisfaction that we stand here today to mark the completion of this important project for residents and visitors of Block Island.”

The focal point of the project was the reconstruction of Bridgegate Square, where Dodge Street, Old Town Road, Ocean Avenue and Corn Neck Road meet. Additionally, RIDOT rebuilt sidewalks along both sides of Dodge Street and Water Street and along portions of Ocean Avenue, Chapel Street and High Street.

The project consisted of accessibility improvements to the sidewalks of Ocean Avenue, Corn Neck Road, Dodge Street, Water Street, High Street and Chapel Street, including full-depth pavement work. General items included, but were not limited to, sidewalk and curb removal, installing new concrete sidewalks, handicapped ramps and detectable warning systems, installing new concrete curb, adjusting necessary utility castings, work around existing trees, and any other incidentals necessary to execute the work complete within the limits of the contract.

“The Island is delighted that our front street and major pedestrian areas have all been improved, along with the creation of handicapped access for our visitors,” New Shoreham Town Manager Nancy Dodge said. “The reconstruction of Bridgegate Square and all the sidewalk improvements was a most welcomed project for the Island and to see it done well and in such a timely manner as to be ready for our summer season was a happy surprise.”

The general contractor was Cardi Construction, one of Rhode Island’s biggest contracting companies. They began the process of tearing up the sidewalks along Dodge Street and on the business side of Water Street in March. Their immediate goal was to get the sidewalks done before there was much pedestrian traffic from the tens of thousands who visit this quaint town-island, by the end of May.

Design consultants were Crossman Engineering and Green International.

Railroad Ties for Sidewalks

“Basically, the sidewalks were old, built over the years, not at the same time,” said Charles St. Martin of RIDOT. “So, what you had was a collection of sidewalk styles, some concrete, some asphalt curve with stone dust behind it, some made in front of businesses, handmade, using railroad tie with some gravel. This made them all uniform.”

In some areas, St. Martin added, there were no sidewalks, and “cars, bikes and people were all in the same space. This project evens things out and makes them safer.”

According to the New Shoreham town manager’s office, new curbing arrived on the island in early March was stored at the Town Beach. Setting the curbing began on March 17 concrete pouring of the sidewalks began the following week. Cardi crews began working four 10-hour days, and began putting in an additional eight hours on Fridays.

Their plan was to grade the new sidewalk area so it was passable before the new concrete was poured. The last part of the project was sidewalk replacement down to the heavily traveled pier area, New Harbor, from the corner of central arteries Beach and Ocean avenues.

The project was wrapped up by May 29, with crews working diligently to finish before Memorial Day and the first wave of boaters and ocean fishermen hit this popular shore. The sidewalk crew was separate from the one working on Bridgegate Square, updating the drainage system, another part of the $2.5 million project.

The new sidewalks stretched from the historic Ballard’s Inn to Bridgegate Square, and from Beach Avenue to the famous restaurant Dead Eye Dick’s (as well as sections of Corn Neck Road and Chapel Street). With their fine effort, Cardi Corporation finished the project two weeks ahead of schedule.

According to New Shoreham town councilor Joe Sprague, a total of 600 yd. (544 m) of concrete was poured to create the 10,000-ft. of sidewalks, rebuilt along Block Island’s waterfront and at the island’s busiest intersection.

The official dedication took place, appropriately, in front of the Block Island Historical Society. CEG