Monument Square could get makeover

Monument Square could get makeover

WOONSOCKET – One of the city’s most heavily trafficked areas could be on track for a makeover, and Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt says the new layout will improve both traffic flow and pedestrian safety at an intersection that has been a source of frustration for drivers and walkers alike.

The city is looking into an extensive reconstruction of Monument Square that would redraw the intersection of Social, Main, Blackstone, North Main and Worrall Streets, creating a more effective drop-off area and improving pedestrian safety. The project would also extend onto Worrall Street, where wider sidewalks and improved lighting and traffic flow are the priorities.

According to Baldelli-Hunt, the project has been under consideration for several years as the city fields complaints over the busy intersection that serves as an entryway to Main Street. Many of the complaints have come from the two institutions that share that section of Main Street, the Stadium Theatre and Beacon Charter High School for the Arts. Both see heavy pedestrian access from their front entryways – mostly by students, in the case of Beacon Charter – and see the current layout, where multiple roads merge just before a pedestrian crosswalk, as a problem.

“Both entities have had concern for years,” said Baldelli-Hunt. “It dates back to prior to me taking office in 2013, and we did look at it a few years ago but we did not have the funding to move forward with the project.”

In recent months, that situation may have changed. The city recently secured $370,000 in State Transportation Improvement Program funding, including $296,000 in federal and $74,000 in state funds. While the federal and state funds could jumpstart the long-awaited reconstruction, the city’s willingness to enter into such a project – and commit funds of its own – remains unclear. On Monday, city councilors briefly considered authorizing Baldelli-Hunt to sign an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation for the federal and state funds, but elected to postpone a vote until a later date to further discuss the project.

The reconstruction, according to Baldelli-Hunt, is part of a larger effort to rejuvenate Main Street and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment as several new businesses and recreational facilities move into the area. At the other end of Main Street, the intersection of Truman Drive and Bernon Street is also targeted for reconstruction, with state-led plans to create a rotary to facilitate the passage of the Blackstone River Bikeway up Truman Drive and into Market Square. Baldelli-Hunt noted the Monument Square project will also improve traffic for other area venues, including a new restaurant scheduled to open in the former Vintage building and a potential dock for the Explorer riverboat at Market Square, a project still in its early stages.

“It is a piece of the vision for re-engaging our downtown Main Street area,” she said. “We, like many other cities and towns across the country, have suffered the darkness of Main Street, and it has taken five years of work to bring along investors who have confidence in the city and confidence in the administration to step forward and come forward and purchase and invest.”

The project is also intended to improve the area’s visual appeal. While the details have not yet been laid out, Baldelli-Hunt said the new look will likely include some sort of street print or other visual effect to create the impression that a person is entering an arts and entertainment sector.

“We are still finalizing that, but the hope is to have a bit of a ‘wow factor’ and to have a finished project that when you look at it, it’s appealing to the eye,” she said. “It’s not just going to be black asphalt and repaving of the roads. I want to have an artistic flair to the design.”

For those wondering what will happen to the Civil War Monument that gives Monument Square its name, they needn’t worry. The monument, said Baldelli-Hunt, will stay in place, though the traffic pattern around it will likely change as city and state officials develop a final design. The design process, she said, will include input from neighboring institutions and emphasize pedestrian safety.

“Everything is on the table at this point. That’s why we have professionals that need to look at the project also,” she said.

While no start date is on the books yet, Baldelli-Hunt said she hopes to complete the project by the end of her current term, just under two years away. The pace of construction, she said, will depend on weather and how quickly the city moves through the design and planning stages. And, of course, on funding – the critical piece in the latest project to come to the downtown area.

Comments

If the City of Woonsocket and State of Rhode Island are going to bend over backwards to accommodate the infrastructure wishes of the "profitable" Stadium Theater, it should require they pay their FAIR SHARE of taxes or engage in a pilot agreement.

The days of the "free-ride" has to end for this organization. If the city requires Veterans Organization, Catholic Schools, Landmark Medical to contribute to it's tax base, the Stadium Theater should as well.

Also, they should be contracting Police Details for traffic management and public safety details during events rather than the city providing on-duty officers to control traffic before & after evening events.

This is a revenue generating entity that is well established and can more than afford to contribute to rebuilding the entire city not just their little footprint. Any active state or local ordinances or laws should be reviewed and rescinded immediately.