WOONSOCKET — Lisa Chaves likes to walk on the Blackstone River Bikeway and has been out with her Welsh Corgi, Buster, on the newest segment completed at Cold Spring near her home in recent months.
The only problem with the new .6-mile section of bike path is that at the moment, it is a bike path without connections to the rest of the Blackstone River Bikeway in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“Right now this is a half-mile bike path to nowhere. It’s a nice little path but it doesn’t go anywhere yet,” Chaves said.
Asked how far you can take it from its finish near the Cold Spring Park canoe launch, Chaves said replied not far at all.
The section of bike path includes a new bridge over the Blackstone River just north of the nearby Singleton Street mill complex, but that only delivers path users to another short segment of paved path running to the Paul S. Kelly Recreational Complex in North Smithfield off St. Paul Street.
To go further, Chaves said she has had to make her way through some muddy conditions to get out on St. Paul Street which you can then take to connect with the Massachusetts Blackstone River Bikeway at its parking lot at 93 Canal Street.
There is no bike path constructed at the moment from Cold Spring Park heading south, but you can walk from near the city’s Public Works Department Highway Facility at 943 River Street south on River Street to eventually find Market Square, a route eventually to be connected via a still unconstructed section of the bike path.
All that said, the newest section of the bike path on Woonsocket’s northern border is an enticing recreational asset even if it doesn’t go too far yet.
At the new bridge, the view to the south is an industrial one of the Brickle Group’s manufacturing operations at the former Nyanza mills, but looking north the curving Blackstone has wooded banks alongside a remnant of the old Blackstone Canal and the sounds of a stream cascading into it with spring runoff.
Shawn Hollis walked up the path from his home in Blackstone and noted he had to cross some woods before he got on the paved segment. “It kinds starts off as nothing but woods but then it’s not that far from the Blackstone bike path. It’s right behind Roosevelt Park,” Hollis said.
As for the completed section of bike path and the bridge, Hollis was impressed. “I think it’s amazing, it’s got a great view of the river, the scenery. I like it,” he said. “It’s going to be my new walking place from now on,” he added.
Charles St. Martin, chief public affairs officer for the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT), said
the newest city section of bike path was largely completed last fall under a $4.8 million extension of the Blackstone River Bikeway known as Segment 8C. “They are basically done and just completing some punch list items,” St. Martin said of the project’s contractor, John Rocchio Corp. of Smithfield.
The six tenths of a mile segment includes a pedestrian and bicycling truss bridge that straddles the Woonsocket-North Smithfield line.
The bridge was brought to the site in six pre-constructed pieces which were then lifted onto the already constructed bridge abutments and supports by two large cranes in an assembly project completed over several days. The contractor then had to install steel reinforcing and concrete for the bridge decking to finish the structure, according to St. Martin.
The majority of the work was completed as last winter closed in and RIDOT has not had an official opening of the segment as a result.
But people are already making use of the pathway even though it is a short one.
St. Martin said Segment 8C will be linked to another extension of the bike path, Segment 8B2, which will connect the Cold Spring section of path to Market Square along River Street.
That work has not yet begun but RIDOT is already working on Segment 8B1, a $4.2 million section that will run from Market Square and Bernon Street through an included new roundabout at Bernon and Truman Drive ending at the Blackstone River Flood Control Project berm near the Woonsocket Public Library on Clinton Street.
Work is already being done on preparing Bernon and Truman Drive for the roundabout traffic pattern and a lane of the Truman bypass has been separated with jersey barrier for work on that part of the project.
St. Martin said Segment 8B1 is scheduled for completion in the fall.
A final city section of the bike path, Segment 8A will pick up the path at Clinton and take it down to the Woonsocket Middle Schools at Hamlet and Villa Nova Street before continuing to a connection with the existing bike path at River’s Edge Recreational Complex that runs down through Lincoln and Cumberland to Broad Street.
Segment 8A which is expected to include another river crossing span is still in the design stage and does not yet have a firm construction date, according to St. Martin.
Segment 8B1 to Market Square and the final section, Segment 8A, are currently in RIDOT’s five-year plan for transportation improvements (TIP) but that plan is in the process of being updated and amended and how the remaining bike path projects are scheduled could change under that process due to funding concerns or other project priorities, according to St. Martin.
“The project are in the TIP and it is just a matter of determining when they are going to be scheduled,” he said.
While two sections of the remaining unbuilt route are in the works, it remains to be seen how long the Cold Spring Park bike path will remain an isolated stretch of recreational property in the city. A hopeful sign is the mile-marker already installed at the new segment listing it as being 19.7 miles from the start of bike path to the south.
Chaves is hoping that completion of the still needed connecting segments will come sooner rather than later.
She has walked the already constructed section in Blackstone, Millville and Uxbridge and found that to be a pleasant experience. “It’s nice. It’s nice and flat and it’s nice smooth walking,” she said.
The section of path in Blackstone and Millville runs about 3.5 miles she estimated and believes there is another mile of paved path in Uxbridge.
“It will be nice when this connects to that one of these days,” Chaves said.
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