Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series that Patch is producing as a look back at the year.
With its central location on Aquidneck Island, Middletown can’t help but host a lot of traffic on its main arteries of East Main Road and West Main Road. Town officials and planners considered several traffic projects and development plans during the year—some in response to known traffic problems, others prompted by a vision of how the town might be reshaped.
Key traffic and development issues during 2011 included:
- West Main/Coddington Development Center Master Plan: In October, Town Council unanimously endorsed an urban-design master plan calling for a heavily landscaped, pedestrian-friendly mix of retail, office, residential, and municipal spaces along an approximately 14-acre stretch of West Main Road from Coddington Highway north to Valley Road. The West Main/Coddington (WMC) plan will take 2-10 years to implement; it was sparked in part by the town’s opportunity to acquire the Navy Lodge property at the corner of Coddington and West Main as a result of the Navy’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). When approving the plan, Councilor Chris Semonelli said: “This is the most important decision we as a Council can make regarding a vision for Middletown.”
- Greene Lane/bayside park: Another possibility that BRAC opens up for Middletown is the ability to develop a park with Narragansett Bay access, along Burma Road in the area of Greene Lane. Town Planner Ron Wolanski worked with the Aquidneck Island Reuse Planning Authority (AIRPA) on the town’s request for a public benefit conveyance of 15 acres along Burma Road; if the conveyance comes through, the land will be given to the town free of charge.
- Traffic studies: Middletown worked with the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission to complete two major studies related to island-wide traffic improvements: The Aquidneck Island Transportation Study (www.vhb/aquidneck) and the Aquidneck Island Regional Traffic Incident Management Plan (http://www.aquidneckplanning.org/traffic.cfm). Both plans outline improvements from new intersections and roundabouts to a coordinated response for special events. and
- Sakonnet Greenway Trail: In October, completed all the land arrangements and easements needed for the second section of the Sakonnet Greenway Trail, already the largest nature trail on the Island. During the winter, ALT hopes to build the 4.5-mile section so it will be open in summer 2012; the new section would increase the Greenway Trail to nearly 10 miles, making it possible to walk from Middletown to Portsmouth through woods and wetlands.
- Multiuse trail: In November, the town applied for a grant to study the feasibility of a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle path along a spine of the town running from the Wyatt Road recreation facility to the Kempenaar Valley. Town Planner Ron Wolanski said it could connect to the Sakonnet Greenway Trail.
- Intersections vs roundabouts: Two key intersections that RIDOT had targeted for improvements became a source of intense discussion in town regarding whether enhanced signals vs roundabouts should be built. In the end, Town Council endorsed enhanced signals for the intersection of West and East Main Roads, and the intersection of West Main and Coddington, responding to townspeople’s concerns that two roundabouts so close together might cause traffic chaos instead of traffic relief. RIDOT expects to work on the intersections in 2012.
- Valley-Green End intersection: Reportedly 10 years in the planning, improvements to the intersection of Valley Road and Green End Avenue finally came to fruition in November and December, with dedicated left-turn lanes promising an end to the backups that routinely occurred up Miantanomi. Best: a decrepit stone wall along the intersection’s southwest corner was beautifully rebuilt.