Dozens Attend South County Bike Path Ribbon Cutting
Wednesday's ceremony in Wakefield brought to fulfillment the efforts of then Senator, now Governor Lincoln D. Chafee to secure Federal earmarks specifically designated for the South County bikeway.
Dozens of outdoor enthusiasts, some arriving on bikes or skateboards, gathered under gloriously sunny skies on Wednesday afternoon for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the third phase of the William C. O'Neill (South County) Bike Path.
Unparalleled Natural Beauty
"It's a jewel," South Kingstown Town Council Vice President Carol Hagan McEntee said, who was among the speakers at the dedication ceremony.
McEntee emphasized that the bike path offers safe and no-cost recreation for those who "run, jog, bike, rollerblade...or [enjoy] cross-country skiing."
Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, who cycled to and from the event along the newest leg of the bike path, said that visitors to the state quickly discover that "Rhode Island is a great place to go for a vacation" because of its "unparalleled natural beauty."
Chafee said that when his father served in the U.S. Senate, he worked closely with New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan on legislation that became the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. The Act sought to expand our nation's transportation system while protecting the environment. The many initiatives envisioned by the Act's authors included "a wide range of bicycle and pedestrian projects."
About 20 years after the passage of that legislation, Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony was held near the Route 1 underpass tunnel at the MacArthur Boulevard entrance to Phase 3 of the bike path.
Michael Lewis, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, served as master of ceremonies.
View our photo gallery for a virtual meet-and-greet with some of those who attended Wednesday's event.
State, Local Collaboration
Lewis also publicly thanked citizen advocate Bob Votava, the chairman of the Friends of the William C. O'Neill Bike Path, for taking initiative during the design phase of the bike path and for serving as a catalyst for the Tunnel Gallery, a public art project on the walls of the 94-foot bikeway tunnel.
[Enjoy a sneak peek at some of the beautiful graffiti art in the Tunnel Gallery by viewing the photos accompanying this article.]
The total length of the William C. O'Neill (South County) Bike Path, from Kingston Railroad Station to Mumford Road, is now 7.8 miles, making it "the fourth longest bike path in Rhode Island," Lewis said.
Visions of Phase 4
"I can hardly wait 'til it goes to the beach," Mary S. 'Polly' Eddy, a member of the South Kingstown Town Council, said. Eddy biked to Wednesday's ceremony from her home in Wakefield.
The fourth phase of the bike path is expected to extend the bikeway to the South County Museum and Narragansett Town Beach.
Narragansett Town Council member Christopher Wilkens said, "We have four preliminary plans. Hopefully we'll get to the ocean where [the bike path] belongs."
Lewis said that in addition to constructing the new section of the bike path, crews also resurfaced MacArthur Boulevard, installed lighting in the Route 1 underpass tunnel, and reconstructed part of the public parking lot on Main Street at Robinson Street in Wakefield.
According to RIDOT officials, the new section of the bike path was designed by the engineering firm Fay, Spofford & Thorndike and was built by J.H. Lynch & Sons, Inc. at a cost of $760,000. The project was paid for with federal funds secured by Chafee when he served as U.S. Senator. Construction of the new section of the bike path took less than a year.
Looking for video of some Narragansett officials' reaction to the new bike path extension? Click here!