The Blackstone River Greenway was conceived of as a 48 mile bikeway connecting Worcester, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island, the length of the National Heritage Corridor, to run, where possible, along the Blackstone River and/or Canal. It has been a "legacy" project for the Corridor Commission, which has been championing it for many years as one of its top priorities. Like all major Corridor projects, this is a partnership project, with major partners including state transportation and environmental agencies, which have assumed lead responsibility for planning, design, construction and management. The Corridor Commission's contributions include technical planning assistance, especially in the early stages, assistance in securing federal and state matching funding, and public outreach and coordination with local communities.
Blackstone River Bikeway/Greenway
Originally known as the Blackstone River Bikeway, it is now referred to as the "Greenway" to acknowledge that federal highway standards for bikeways do not always work, especially where they conflict with protecting sensitive resource areas. "Greenway" design standards provide more flexibility to avoid serious impacts on wetlands, forested land or features that have historic or cultural significance. To some extent, they can also save on costs. Although the Greenway is an off-road facility wherever possible, it has on-road sections in some areas where that is the only feasible alternative for technical, legal or other reasons.
Completed To Date
Currently there are 10.3 miles of completed Greenway with additional spurs for a total of 11.5 miles open to the public in Central Falls, Lincoln, & Cumberland, RI. An additional 2.5 miles of bikeway are complete in Worcester and Millbury, MA.
Besides connecting 15 cities and towns in the Heritage Corridor, the Greenway also links with the Blackstone River and the historic Blackstone Canal to form the "Riverway", a corridor within the Corridor that will ultimately offer unique opportunities for residents and visitors alike to experience history, enjoy nature and engage in a variety of recreational activities. The Blackstone River Greenway will also connect to the already completed East Bay Bike Path, allowing users to continue to Bristol (and ultimately Newport), RI.
The Blackstone River Greenway has had broad public support from the beginning, including critical support from elected officials who worked hard to get federal and state funds appropriated. Local communities recognized not only the open space and recreational benefits, but also the potential positive impact on the local economy. As more miles are being completed and large numbers of people have begun to use the Greenway, communities that have not yet seen construction are anxiously awaiting their turn.
In Rhode Island, collaboration between the Departments of Transportation and Environmental Management has resulted in 11.5 miles of continuous bike path being open to the public in Cumberland, Lincoln, and Woonsocket, RI. This includes approximately 3.5 miles along the river, canal and historic tow path within the Blackstone River State Park. An additional 4 miles are under construction in Providence and Woonsocket, and the remaining 6 miles are in design.
To encourage people to begin using the Greenway even in areas where final construction will take more time, and also to keep up the momentum for the project, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council recently spearheaded the "Bike Stripe", a temporary way to identify the route of the Greenway with on-road markings and signage. (See Cycle Blackstone.)
In Massachusetts, approximately 2.5 miles of off-road bike path were completed in Millbury in 2006. An additional 2.5 miles (on-road) are in design in Worcester, where the Greenway will terminate at Union Station. Another 3.5 mile section in Blackstone and Millville is currently in design, a challenging task given, among other things, the many bridges in this area. Work on four bridges is scheduled to begin in 2011. Also in the design process is 6.5 miles from the Millville Lock to River Bend Farm.
A major concern is progress on the remaining 11.5 miles that will connect the northern and southern sections in MA. Previous planning and design was dominated by federal highway standards, which turned out to be incompatible with protection of sensitive resource areas, including park land managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). DCR has now taken over the lead on planning and design and will hopefully be able to get this portion back on track.
Access the bikeway
Are you ready to get on the bikeway? Take a look at the access points.
For More Details
For more information on the bikeway you can download the Blackstone River Valley Bikeway brochure, but note that it needs to be updated to show additional completed sections. Helpful information is also available from the Blackstone River Bikeway Patrol, which publishes a downloadable pocket guide, the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council in RI and the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce Tourism Association in MA.
Blackstone River Bikeway Map
View Blackstone River Valley Bikeway in a larger map