Meeting paves the way for traffic improvements
A crowd of roughly 75 Edgewood residents gathered at the Rhode Island Yacht Club Monday, stopping at the front desk to pick up a two-page sheet detailing 24 documented traffic accidents that have plagued the area since 1993. The miracle, they say, is that no deaths or serious injuries are listed.
They want to keep it that way.
At the public meeting organized by the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association (EWPA), residents and city officials discussed options for calming traffic in the area, particularly at the intersection of Narragansett Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.
“We are here to make a serious commitment. We recognize the severity of the problem. The fear for these homeowners is very real,” said Mayor Allan Fung.
For starters, the city plans to erect two temporary speed bumps along Narragansett Boulevard, south of Strathmore, leading up to Ocean Avenue. Those bumps will be in place within the month, according to the administration.
Permanent speed bumps or tables are not yet an option, because the city must first wait for the results of a design study being conducted by Garofalo & Associates. The firm, with whom a contract was recently approved, will send survey teams out in the coming weeks with a 30 percent completeness study available by March. At that time, the city will hold another public meeting. Once the study and public input is complete, the city will go out to bid for construction services.
The study area runs along Narragansett from Norwood to Ocean Avenues.
Barbara Rubine, a 30-year resident and president of the EWPA, was pleased with the tone of the meeting, and said she interpreted the presence of the administration as a sign of good faith that they are taking the residents’ concerns seriously.
“The fact that you are here tonight is very impressive and important to us, and we hope it’s the beginning of some permanent solutions,” she said. “I have a stronger sense of optimism that something is going to happen.”
Rubine and fellow resident Juana Horton canvassed the neighborhood in advance of Monday’s meeting, hitting 200 homes in the area between Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to Mayor Fung, Director of Public Works Ken Mason, Director of Administration Gerry Cordy, Director of Constituent Affairs Marissa Campisani, Chief of Police Col. Marco Palombo and other Cranston Police officers represented the city. Councilman Steve Stycos and Councilwoman-elect Sarah Kales Lee were also in attendance.
To catch them up to speed, Rubine held up the list of accidents, which she says tells “an incredible story.”
“Cars have landed upside down in the cove, trees cut in half … the traffic island has been damaged so many times that the sponsor of the Adopt a Spot does not want to be responsible any longer,” she said. “We care about Edgewood; we are here tonight to show the city that we all care about solutions.”
The preferred solutions vary among neighbors. Some said more police presence is needed, while others advocated for new engineering of the road.
Hope Pilkington was one of the residents who believe that stepped up patrols of the area could mitigate the problem.
“There are no cops in Cranston. We need more police protection,” she said.
Col. Palombo isn’t convinced that is a catchall solution.
“We cannot write our way out of this – engineering is required. The road has to be engineered in a way that reduces speed naturally,” he said, adding that the department recently received a $60,000 federal grant for DUI and traffic enforcement.
The program has not yet been established, but he said some of those funds could likely be directed to catching drunk drivers in Edgewood.
“There’s one thing that’s for certain,” Palombo said, “that the speed is up on the Boulevard.”
Traffic Unit Supervisor Sgt. Matthew Kite pointed out that the department has directed patrols to the area, in addition to the community policing program already in place. Over the past year, Cranston Police directed patrols to the area for 153 days, resulting in 405 car stops and 80 arrests.
“We do have an enforcement effort out there,” Kite said. “We are out there, trying to enforce the laws.”
Nicholas Rampone, commodore of the Rhode Island Yacht Club, does not think police patrols are the problem or the solution. He credited the department with being responsive to neighborhood concerns, and said he has been satisfied with service to his establishment and the surrounding area.
“The City of Cranston Police Department has really stepped up to the plate for us,” he said.
Mason offered other potential solutions, such as traffic neckdowns, driver feedback devices, increased signage and enlarging the island.
Signs will likely be part of the overall package of fixes, but resident Catherine McGuinness said the ones currently in place, including a T-stop warning and a sign that advises of a “dangerous intersection ahead,” are often overlooked.
“People tend to look at the water; they’re not looking at the signs,” she said.
Narragansett Boulevard is roughly 48 feet across, a wide roadway to begin with. Mason suggested that narrowing the road to 32 feet – a more standard size – could naturally slow traffic and give the neighborhood additional opportunities for landscaping.
Medians are also an option, but Mason was quick to note that the city would opt for more aesthetically pleasing wooden barriers, like the ones used at Lincoln Woods. When he proposed adding similar barriers in front of the four homes that have most often been hit, however, neighbors scoffed at the suggestion.
“That’s hideous,” one resident yelled out.
The same was said of the boulders that residents paid for out of pocket. Four property owners have purchased 22 boulders at a total cost of $12,000.
“They’re ugly. Our houses shouldn’t have boulders – they should have picket fences or hedges or roses,” said Ardys Filippone, one of the four homeowners in the so-called “strike zone.”
Speed tables seemed to be the proposal most accepted by residents. Unlike speed bumps, elongated tables are less steep and can be driven over going 15 to 20 miles per hour. Bumps, Mason fears, would be too extreme.
“We’ll be getting a lot of claims for vehicular damage to front ends,” he said.
Juana Horton is glad that speed tables are part of the proposed solutions, though, as well as signage, police presence and education for drivers.
“All these solutions applied simultaneously will help to protect the neighborhood and the residents,” she said.
Fung warned, however, that these long-term solutions might not be implemented overnight. He says implementation will depend on the city’s bonding authority and other available funding sources. He said elements of the plan could be put in place over the course of one year or “several budget cycles.”
“I’ve been trying to keep the city’s overall debt ratio low,” he said.
Follow the Cranston Herald for updates on this story, or visit www.stillhousecove.org for updates from the EWPA.