Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) this afternoon opened the newest segment of the William C. O'Neill (South County) Bike Path following a ribbon cutting ceremony on the bikeway.
The new 0.8-mile path connects to the existing bike path which RIDOT built in the late 1990s and early 2000s from Kingston Station off Route 138 in West Kingston to Route 108 opposite MacArthur Boulevard in Wakefield. The new segment will bring riders into Narragansett, ending at Mumford Road. The entire path is 7.8 miles long, and stands as the fourth-longest bike path in Rhode Island.
"Here in Rhode Island, we are fortunate to have unparalleled natural beauty," said Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, who as a U.S. Senator, secured funding for the bike path. "I can think of no better way to enjoy Rhode Island than to ride along one of our spectacular bikeways. The William C. O'Neill Bike Path is a welcome addition to our already impressive array of routes across the state."
The new bike path includes 0.5 miles of off-road bikeway, resurfacing of 0.3 miles of MacArthur Boulevard (which carries the path from Route 108 to the off-road segment), a lighting system at the tunnel passing underneath Route 1 and reconstruction of a parking lot on Main Street at Robinson Street in Wakefield. The path also provides options for those traveling to the Narragansett shoreline by bike, as it bypasses the busy commercial corridors in Wakefield and the Dillon Rotary in Narragansett.
"RIDOT is proud of its accomplishments in building bike paths and establishing bike routes throughout the state," RIDOT Director Michel P. Lewis said. "This new bikeway segment provides a critical link for cyclists in South County."
"The Town of Narragansett has long been looking forward to the completion of this section of the William C. O'Neill Bike Path," Narragansett Town Council President Pro Tem David Crook, Sr. said. "It opens up opportunities for residents of both Narragansett and South Kingstown for biking to work or school or simply enjoying the beautiful South County landscape in a way you can't do in a car."
A key element feature of the new bike path segment is the railroad tunnel feature under Route 1. The Town of South Kingstown, in cooperation with the Friends of the William C. O'Neill Bike Path, has organized the "Tunnel Gallery," a public art project for the walls of the 94-foot-long tunnel. The public will be invited to paint on the tunnel walls using various methods, which will in effect create a bikeway art gallery. RIDOT is installing lighting in the tunnel to help display the art and discourage vandalism.
"South Kingstown is known as a community rich in historic and cultural features and the Town is conscious of continuing leadership in this area," South Kingstown Town Council President Ella Whaley said. "These efforts have positively influenced the quality of life experienced by local residents as far back as the earliest arts-based initiatives started by the Hazard Family in the early 1900s."
The new path segment was designed by the engineering firm Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, Inc. of Burlington, Mass. and built by J.H. Lynch of Cumberland at a cost of $760,000.
The William C. O'Neill Bike Path is built largely on the former right-of-way of the Narragansett Pier Railroad, which dates back to 1876. After the railroad ceased operations in the late 1960s, many ideas were considered for the corridor. The late Senator William C. O'Neill was instrumental in advocating for the railroad's re-use as a bike path to make it safer for children to ride a bike to school.
The initial segment of the bike path covered 4.1 miles from Kingston Station to Rodman Street in Peace Dale, and was completed in August 2000. The next segment included 2.9 miles of bikeway from Rodman Street to Route 108. It was opened in September 2003. The new segment of bikeway from Route 108 to Mumford Road was redesigned and successfully completed thanks to a land-swap agreement between the Town of Narragansett and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In late June, the Narragansett Town Council approved a master plan for the Canonchet Farm area, including a provision for a fourth segment of bikeway from Mumford Road toward the South County Museum and Narragansett Town Beach. RIDOT will be performing a feasibility study to provide options to the community for extending the bike path beyond Mumford Road.
RIDOT's off-road bike path system includes nearly 60 miles of bikeway across the State. Another 120 miles of on-road bike routes have been established. Other major paths in Rhode Island include the Blackstone River Bikeway (Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield and Woonsocket), the East Bay Bike Path (Barrington, Bristol, East Providence, Providence and Warren), the Fred Lippitt Woonasquatucket River Greenway (Johnston and Providence), the Quonset Bike Path (North Kingstown), the Ten Mile River Greenway (East Providence and Pawtucket), and the Washington Secondary Bike Path (Coventry, Cranston, Warwick and West Warwick).
Contact: Heidi Gudmundson 401-222-1362 x4009