Public forum on proposed Aquidneck bike path Monday, June 18

Next Monday, June 18, there will be a public forum in Newport to explore a potential ten-mile bile path overlooking Narragansett Bay, the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) announced in a release today. The meeting, which will be held from 6-8pm at the Best Western on Admiral Kalbfus Rd across from Newport Grand, will feature speakers from the RI Dept. of Transportation, planning firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), and the RI Federal Highway Administration (RI FHWA). There is no cost to attend, but reservations are required and can be made by e-mailing tina@aquidneckplanning or calling (401) 845-9299.

The proposed "Shoreline Bikeway" would begin in Middletown, just north of Naval Station Newport, and extend approximately ten miles to the new Sakonnet Bridge, which has a dedicated bike lane into Tiverton. The path also would connect to the Mt. Hope Bridge and the East Bay Bike Path. If constructed, the combined paths would cover 70 miles of paved trail, from Aquidneck Island to Tiverton and from Bristol to the Blackstone River Bikeway. Assuming the proper width can be achieved, the bikeway would accommodate walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, parents with baby carriages or almost any use that is non-motorized, according to the AIPC.

Next Monday's event is meant to be highly informative and interactive, with the RIDOT and VHB presenting the fundamentals of similar bike path construction, explaining state requirements for permitting, and discussing timelines and funding options. The RI Federal Highway Administration will share its unique nation-wide perspective. The forum is focused on a “rail with trail,” system in which the Shoreline Bikeway would be constructed within the RIDOT right of way, next to the rail line.

Tina Dolen, AIPC executive director, stressed that “the forum is not by any means limited to bicycle enthusiasts, but to anyone who may be interested. We anticipate pros and cons, and it’s important to hear all viewpoints. I also want to stress that a bikeway is not happening tomorrow; it will take years. But with good planning and community organization, we hope to accelerate the timeline.”

Editorial note: Written from a press release.