The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has developed a new approach for identifying and addressing safety and congestion problem locations. Called Rhode Island's Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions (RI*STARS), the Department intends to issue contracts for improvements on roads and at intersections with high levels of congestion and crashes. The first area of Rhode Island included in this program is Aquidneck Island.
Working collaboratively with the communities of Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth, RIDOT has identified 13 locations on the island. The Department also worked with the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, which studied transportation needs across the island in its 2011 Aquidneck Island Transportation Study.
"This is a systematic and data-driven approach," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "This program will help identify problem areas and provide the Department with the best information possible to determine which projects to tackle first."
Through a $345,000 contract with Arden Engineering Constructors of Pawtucket, RIDOT will make numerous changes in signage and striping to better organize and guide traffic on the island. Some of the improvements will be making changes to traffic patterns, with increased safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.
Motorists will see evidence of this project this week with work on Route 138A (Memorial Boulevard), from America's Cup Avenue in Newport to Aquidneck Avenue in Middletown. The road will be restriped to establish bicycle lanes and share-the-road segments in each direction. In certain areas where the width of the roadway cannot accommodate a bike lane, RIDOT will install large stenciled markings called "sharrows" on the pavement. These indicate that motorists must share the roadway with cyclists.
There will be minimal changes to on-street parking as part of the new traffic patterns, although RIDOT will eliminate one lane of travel on Memorial Boulevard westbound from the area of Aquidneck Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue for installation of a bike lane.
Work to install the new pavement markings will require daytime and nighttime lane restrictions. The work is scheduled to wrap up Friday morning.
Also on Aquidneck Island, RIDOT is planning to restripe the entire length of Coddington Highway, from Girard Avenue at the Community College of Rhode Island's Newport County Campus to West Main Road in Middletown. Through a safety improvement commonly referred to as a "road diet," the Department will restripe the roadway from a four-lane traffic pattern to a two-lane traffic pattern with a center turning lane. This effort is a proven traffic calming measure that improves safety by reducing the speed of traffic.
Construction operations to establish the two-lane configuration is scheduled to begin on Monday, December 3, 2012. Motorists driving on Coddington Highway during the evening and overnight hours early that week may encounter delays during restriping operations.
The Department has implemented road diets along many sections of roadway in Rhode Island, most recently on Route 2 in North Kingstown and East Greenwich and on Route 44 in Smithfield. A similar traffic pattern change was implemented on Route 138 (East Main Road) in Portsmouth in 2008 to help reduce traffic speeds and make it easier for pedestrians to cross the road.
RIDOT has carefully studied traffic volumes along Coddington Highway and Memorial Boulevard to make sure these improvements will not impede the flow of traffic.
Other improvements planned for Aquidneck Island as part of RI*STARS include:
• Installation of new striping and curbing to retrofit the rotary at J.T. Connell Highway and Admiral Kalbfus Road so it functions more like a modern roundabout.
• Installation of protected left-turn signals on Bellevue Avenue at the intersection with Memorial Boulevard.
• Signing improvements at the intersection of Admiral Kalbfus Road and Malbone Road.
• Restriping of crosswalks, and improvements to pedestrian signal crossing lights, including the addition of countdown timers on America's Cup Avenue.
• Signing and striping improvements at the intersections of Admiral Kalbfus at West Main Road, East Main Road at Aquidneck Avenue, East Main Road at Turner Road, and Aquidneck Avenue at Green End Avenue.
• Signing and striping improvements at the intersections of West Main Road at Bristol Ferry Road and East Main Road at Turnpike Avenue.
• Restriping of crosswalks and signage work at the intersection of West Main Road and Union Street.
Anyone with questions can contact RIDOT's Customer Service office at 401-222-2450 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional information may be available on RIDOT's website (www.dot.ri.gov) and its social media sites on Twitter and Facebook.