Segment by segment, shrub by shrub, the Blackstone River Bikeway is coming together.
Rhode Island will receive $575,000 in federal funding for landscaping along the bikeway, according to a Jan. 21 press release from the office of Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I. Construction first began in the early '90s, said Charles St. Martin, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
There are currently about 10 miles of bikeway open in the Ocean State, but the completed route will span about 48 miles from Worcester, Mass., to India Point Park in Providence, he said.
The federal funds for landscaping will be used along a section of the bikeway that connects Lincoln to Woonsocket — a stretch of about two miles — St. Martin said.
"Over the last ten years or so, we have made a significant investment in bikeways across Rhode Island," he said. "It's been an evolution, but we definitely feel it's moving along."
Brown Cycling Team member Chris Cohen '12 said local paths are above average.
"In terms of dedicated multi-use trails, Rhode Island has — for its size — probably one of the best systems in the country," Cohen said.
He said the cycling team makes active use of bike trails across the state, adding that though the Blackstone River Bikeway is difficult to access from Brown, it is a beautiful and well-frequented trail. Bikeways have the advantage of shielding cyclists from car traffic and road obstructions, he said, adding that "drivers in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts aren't the politest in the world."
Current price estimates for landscaping along the designated two-mile stretch fall below the allocated $575,000, and surplus funds could be used to work on other sections of the route, St. Martin said.
"We are very appreciative of the efforts of our congressional delegation," he said, though he said the funding did not come as a surprise to the state.
"The Blackstone River was a major transportation artery long before Route 95. This bike path will help preserve the historic and scenic beauty of the area, while bringing more families to enjoy the valley's attributes, thereby boosting the local economy," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the press release. "It will also help ease traffic congestion and serve as a vital link between communities."