Phase one of Canal Street bike path extension complete

Phase one of Canal Street bike path extension complete

The newly restored railroad bridge as seen from the existing bike path. (Breeze photos by Lauren Clem)

BLACKSTONE – Progress is moving forward on an essential connecting piece of the bike path between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation completing phase one of the segment on June 30.

Once complete, the segment will connect the Blackstone River Greenway at Canal Street in Blackstone with Rhode Island’s Blackstone River Bikeway, which currently ends at the North Smithfield state line.

According to Olivia Dorrance, spokesperson for the DCR, the agency began work on the bike path segment last summer and completed phase one in June.

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Phase one involved restoring a double railroad bridge over Canal Street and the canal for which it’s named to make it usable for the bike path. That work is now complete, with the newly restored bridge visible from the current end of the bike path near the Canal Street parking area.

In phase two, the DCR plans to restore a historic seven-span railroad viaduct that runs between Canal Street and the Blackstone River. Under the current plan, the agency plans to construct the bike path on the viaduct and eventually connect it to the Rhode Island portion behind the yard waste disposal facility on Mill Street.

The timing of that larger project remains uncertain, with Dorrance declining to answer questions on when phase two will begin. The agency, she said, has already completed the design of the second phase and secured construction permits, but is currently working to secure funding for the $8.8 million project.

The multi-state project has been moving along in increments since the 1990s, when Rhode Island first began construction on its side of the bikeway. Currently, large segments of the bike path run between Uxbridge and Blackstone in Massachusetts and between Woonsocket and Cumberland in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has also continued work on the bike path, with two new segments in Woonsocket completed within the past few years. Rhode Island still has two segments left to complete in Woonsocket and recently announced a $475,000 grant to expand the path in Pawtucket.

The newly restored railroad bridge over Canal Street is the latest section of the bike path completed in Massachusetts.