Transportation Plan Prioritizes Pedestrians – Newport This Week

City officials have been collecting feedback on a proposal to seasonally remove some on-street parking and close some streets in select parts of the city in order to accommodate pedestrians.

It is part of an ongoing effort to gauge public opinion on multiple issues related to transportation, including the possibility of establishing pedestrian priority areas in denser areas of Newport.

“Some people have pushed back on that, but some people are all for it if it is supported by a frequent circulator service,” said Trish Reynolds, Newport planning director. “Part of the strategy, because we’d like to get people out of their cars, is a whole series of recommendations for parking improvements.”

The so-called circulator service would be a city-sponsored free shuttle with a seasonal route.

“There hasn’t been one person opposed to the idea of ​​a free public shuttle,” said Melissa Pattavina, Planning Board secretary. “I think people would use it. We’ve even heard this from our tourist population. ”

“You could hop on and hop off,” Reynolds said. “It would be something you wouldn’t be dependent on RIPTA for, and the city would have control.”

The city is hoping to address transportation related problems along some of Newport’s busiest and most-narrow corridors, including a lack of parking and alternative transportation options, circulation issues, vehicles striking pedestrians and other complications. The idea was put forward after the city published a 211-page existing conditions report, which outlined publicly identified transportation issues in Newport.

The city, in new informational posters, describes the pedestrian priority areas as “groups of projects that will provide increased accessibility, pedestrian safety and pedestrian enjoyment.”

The proposal includes replacing seasonal on-street parking on Thames Street with a “flexible parking / loading / sidewalk zone,” the seasonal closure to vehicles of lower Broadway and Thames Street north of Memorial Boulevard, easing pedestrian travel and ensuring accessibility in the area of Touro Street, Mill Street and Thames Street by expanding sidewalks, and accessibility improvements on narrower streets.

“Pedestrian priority areas have been received extremely well, especially by seniors,” Pattavina said. “We talk about increasing accessibility on the sidewalks, so the seniors really get behind that.”

Reynolds and Pattavina said the response has seen more positive comments than ones displaying concern or pushback.

“I’m wildly surprised and relieved that residents are very much on board with a lot of these recommendations,” Pattavina said.

“We definitely get a lot of folks who do not feel confident that some of our ideas around enforcement, parking enforcement in particular, are realistic,” she added. “Those are generally people who think our enforcement isn’t great already, so they have a hard time imagining new ideas happening.”

Other ideas for pedestrian priority areas include signal and timing reconfiguration on Bellevue Avenue and Memorial Boulevard, increasing pedestrian accessibility south of Memorial Boulevard, reducing vehicle volume and speeds, ensuring that future multimodal paths connect to neighborhoods, and making it easier to cross Poplar and Elm streets.

Soliciting public input on issues related to city-wide transportation is in preparation for the publication of the upcoming transportation master plan, which will detail the local transportation vision and the steps to realize those goals over a 10-year period.

Currently, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is in the final phase of a project that will redefine how those commuting from the Pell Bridge approach and exit Newport, which includes the construction of a large public parking lot and the introduction of wide, multi-use pathways along America’s Cup Avenue and other entryways to the city; factors that will be considered as the city plots its course for the future.

The existing conditions report was published after the city interviewed experts, including elected officials and city staff, solicited public feedback, consulted professional firms and analyzed data around local transportation, such as parking studies, the number of parking tickets distributed annually and the busiest times of the year for driving in the city, among other components. The report will serve as a baseline for the transportation master plan, which is set to be published in early fall.

“We’re at the stage now where we have to come up with some ideas of how to respond to that data presented in the earlier report,” Pattavina said. “We’ve been going out to the public for the past month to ask, ‘What do you think?'”

In addition to online surveys, written correspondence and testimony during public meetings, the local planning department and other organizations with stake in the transportation master plan, including Keep Newport Moving and Bike Newport, have been conducting pop-up informational sessions where experts set up a booth to display informational posters detailing some of the proposals, as well as distribute information about the ideas being put forward for consideration. In the first two weeks of the campaign, the city received over 100 online responses and over 100 interactions at in-person events, according to Pattavina. The last of the pop-up sessions took place on June 15 at the Edward King House.

Some of the other proposals include discounted senior parking and 15-minute parking in some areas, such as churches, and allowing public use of their parking lots when not in use, electronic notification of the number of available parking spaces in a given area at any given time, designated loading and unloading spaces and instituting dedicated delivery times.

The city will take the feedback it has received and consult with experts before publishing the finalized transportation master plan. The hope, said Reynolds, is to incorporate the plan and the recommendations into the world comprehensive land use map, much like the recent North End Urban Revitalization Plan.

“That’s so the plan is actual, foundational and has some teeth,” said Pattavina. “That’s a big thing that comes up in every outreach session or meeting, the general question of how are we going to make sure this plan is actually followed through and where are we going to get the money to fund some of these projects.”

The transportation master plan is set to go through a Planning Board approval before heading to the City Council for a final vote. Public hearings on the plan will be held by both bodies as they deliberate the document.

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