BLACKSTONE – The selectmen Tuesday unanimously voted to close Canal Street for five weeks while the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation restores the Canal Street railroad bridge as part of the Blackstone River Greenway’s connection to the Blackstone River Bikeway at the Rhode Island border.

Canal Street, a major artery connecting Blackstone and Woonsocket, will be closed at the end of October or early November for a total of five weeks while work crews restore the bridge. The road will be completely closed with traffic detoured at Farnum Street and under the viaduct.

The project to connect the Greenway to the Rhode Island bike path includes restoration of the railroad bridge crossing Canal Street during the first phase, and restoration of the seven-span viaduct and completion of the bike path from the Blackstone Depot to the Rhode Island border during the second phase.

In June of last year, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation installed a 182-foot truss-style bridge over the Blackstone River between Woonsocket and North Smithfield, which will connect a six-tenths of a mile segment of the Blackstone River Bikeway from Cold Spring Park in Woonsocket to Meadows Park in North Smithfield.

This new section of the Blackstone River Bikepath, called Segment 8C, is entirely off-road and travels on or adjacent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flood Control System along the river. Construction is expected to be completed and the new path open this fall.

The next segment, 8B1, from Market Square to Truman Drive just south of Clinton Street in Woonsocket, is underway. Two more segments in the city are set to start in the next two to three years.

The new bike path will add to the 16.4 miles of the Blackstone River Bikeway the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has built in multiple segments since 1998, making it Rhode Island’s second-longest bike path. Statewide, RIDOT has established a bike path network of over 60 miles in length.

It’s also a critical link to the newly-opened 3.7-mile segment of the counterpart of the Blackstone River Greenway in Massachusetts that begins at the terminus of 8C and continues to Providence Street in Uxbridge.

The Greenway in this stretch is 3.7 miles of trails and a multi-use path along the former railroad line between South Uxbridge, Route 146A, through Millville and to the Blackstone Depot site. The project itself terminates at Route 146A in Uxbridge. Additionally, several miles in Uxbridge, from the Greenway trail near Route 146 Exit 1 to the River Bend Farm on Oak Street, is being evaluated by the state’s engineering and design firm.

The third and last contract is the actual construction of the entire Greenway, which will link all the bridges, the tunnel, and reconstruction of the most complicated bridge – the Triad Bridge in Millville.

The cost for all three construction contracts is $20 million, and is one of the most expensive Greenway sections ever built in New England.

When completed, the trail will go from Route 146A in Uxbridge to the Rhode Island border – roughly 3.7 miles in length – then from the Rhode Island border all the way to Providence, for a total of 24 miles.

The Blackstone River Greenway was conceived of as including a 48-mile long bikeway connecting Worcester to Providence, running the length of the National Heritage Corridor and following the Blackstone River and Canal wherever possible. The Greenway will also connect to the already completed East Bay Bike Path, allowing users to continue to Bristol, and ultimately, Newport.

In Massachusetts, approximately 3.5 miles of the bikeway are complete, including 2.5 miles of off-road facility in Millbury and Worcester. In Worcester, additional on-road path stretches connect the Greenway with various neighborhoods, including Quinsigamond Village, where a bike path spur went into construction last year and connected with the Worcester Blackstone Visitor Center, currently in design. Between Crompton Park and Union Station, another stretch of the bike path is in design and is expected to be on-road facility, where the users will be separated from roadway traffic.

In Rhode Island, collaboration between the Departments of Transportation and Environmental Management has resulted in 11.5 miles of continuous off-road bike path being open to the public in Cumberland, Lincoln and Woonsocket, and several miles of on-road path in Providence and Pawtucket. In total, nearly 16 miles of bike path have been completed along the Blackstone River Greenway, and the remaining eight miles are in design.

Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7

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