By Tom Shevlin
NEWPORT – The asphalt was barely cool on Lower Thames Street last Wednesday when City Councilors unexpectedly used a procedural budget meeting to challenge staff to investigate making similar improvements to a badly uneven stretch of Spring Street.
The subject was first broached by Councilor Henry F. Winthrop, who marveled at how quickly the city was able to repave Lower Thames.
Noting that the council had in 2006 vowed to repave one of the city's three main arteries – Thames, Spring Street, or Broadway – with voter-approved road bond money, Winthrop asked if there was any way to improve the northbound artery short of a full reconstruction.
"Let's see if we can get something done," Winthrop said.
The suggestion drew an immediate affirmation from his fellow councilors, who quickly looked to Public Services Director Bill Riccio for his input on the idea.
According to Riccio, he's already submitted a request for funding through the RIDOT statewide Transportation Improvement Program to completely reconstruct the road. However, when that money would become available is hard to tell.
In the meantime, Riccio said that he would explore alternatives that could be used on the street as a temporary fix. But unlike Lower Thames Street, Riccio doubts that Spring Street would be a candidate for the milling technique used on Thames.
"It becomes complicated because that portion of Spring Street (south of Memorial Boulevard) is concrete," he said. Also of concern are the undulating curb heights and various catch basins and utility points that would need to be accommodated during any rehabilitation project. What kinds of underground utility repairs may also be needed is yet another complicating factor.
That's not to say, however, that the project isn't feasible.
Still, at this point, it's far too soon to know whether Spring Street will be included in any state-funded projects, or what alternatives are out there that the city could pursue.
However Riccio was pleased to have been given such a clear challenge from the council.
"It's good to have that direction," he said.