In a boost for the vision of remaking the 6/10 Connector as a boulevard, state DOT Director Peter Alviti said Wednesday that a boulevard hybrid concept offers far more public benefits than traditional reconstruction of the Connector's seven deficient bridges.
Yet following a public meeting in Providence Wednesday evening, some civic observers were unimpressed, calling the concept more highway than boulevard.
During an afternoon briefing for reporters at DOT headquarters on Smith Hill, Alviti touted the boulevard concept as a way to free land for development and recreation, and sew back the neighborhoods of Olneyille and Silver Lake, while adding a rapid bus line.
Alviti said the cost of the boulevard concept is thought to be close to the $500 million price tag for traditional reconstruction of the troubled bridges, although he said DOT is pursuing a more detailed cost analysis. The state hopes to secure $100 million in FASTLANE grant money from the Federal Highway Administration to use toward the cost.
While the 6/10 Connector has degraded since being built in the 1950s, and intended repairs have failed to materialize, the state now has a chance to pursue what supporters tout as a visionary solution. A big chunk of the RhodeWorks law championed by Governor Gina Raimondo is meant to fix the troubled bridges on the 6/10 Connector.
Here's part of Alviti's explanation of how the boulevard concept would work: "We take the traffic on Route 6, coming in from this [western] direction, and Route 10, actually leave it at the existing level at Route 10 and create a kind of a structure system that we fill in over the level, so it’s kind of a reverse tunnel."
Transit activists have made the case that a boulevard could boost economic development while adding to Providence's appeal.
DOT officials said the boulevard could run from the intersection of Routes 6 and 10 to Broadway in Providence, and possibly a bit longer.
Jef Nickerson, a longtime civic observer who runs the Greater City Providence web site, used Twitter to call DOT's boulevard option "A tunnel. And BRT [bus rapid transit] in the middle of a highway."
Alviti said the hybrid approach, one of a few under consideration, would not exacerbate traffic.
Speaking of the boulevard hybrid, he said, "The design alternative that can meet the needs, I think, of more of the stakeholders and the community itself and the city of Providence is this approach. We still have to determine what are the pros and – if it’s going to cost more, what are the benefits that come with it, and if it’s not going to cost more, then it’s an easy decision."
This post has been updated