State to Providence: Stop work on bike lane or pay $4.4M

A bike lane created by the City of Providence on South Water Street has created a dispute with the RI Department of Transportation. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence must stop all work on a bike lane project or may have to reimburse the state and the federal government for the cost of a previous infrastructure project at the same location because of an agreement signed by the city’s former mayor, the state’s transportation department has said.

On Wednesday, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation asked the city to halt construction on the bike lane on South Water Street in a letter to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, WJAR—TV reported.

RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said the city was bound by a 1999 agreement that stipulated that any changes made to South Water Street, other than for transportation purposes, need to be approved by the agency and the Federal Highway Administration. The 1999 agreement followed state and federal investment in infrastructure improvements on the street.

RIDOT said it never reviewed any plans from the city for the new bike lane project.

Alviti asked the city to stop all construction until RIDOT and FHWA can conclude that the project is in line with the 1999 agreement. If it doesn’t, Alviti said it may have to reimburse the state and FHWA for the cost of the previous project, which was $4.4 million.

City officials told the broadcaster the city is moving forward with the project despite the objections from RIDOT and local businesses.

Local business owners including representatives for Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design have also shared their concerns in a letter last week, asking RIDOT to intervene because the construction is causing traffic to back up on Interstate 95.

The city said it has made changes to accommodate businesses on South Water Street like adjusting loading zones for delivery vehicles and the timing of traffic signals.