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PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Transportation will not try to do away with the recently completed South Water Street bike lanes in Providence, despite their continuing concerns about traffic and safety issues.

The decision was announced Thursday, after state officials met with their counterparts in the Federal Highway Administration. The state Department of Transportation had raised concerns about the project, which was carried out by the city at a cost of about $300,000. Director Peter Alviti cited a 1999 contract for federally and state funded repair work there, and questioned whether the more recent work was consistent with the agreement.


That turned out to be a dead end: The federal government, which was a signatory on that contract, won’t implement any penalties and “does not want to get involved,” the state DOT said Thursday.

“Therefore, we will not press the issue any further,” the Department of Transportation announced.

The project created a two-way protected bike lane, which supporters call an urban trail because it can be used for other sorts of non-automobile traffic. It reduced the road from a two-lane, one-way road to a one-lane road for vehicles.

Opponents, including local businesses and the two universities in the area, Brown and RISD, cited traffic and safety problems with reducing a lane of travel. Supporters said reducing a travel lane was vital to slowing car traffic and making the area safer for everyone. In other words, reducing a lane of car travel was a feature, not a bug.

The Department of Transportation had urged Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza to halt construction, although it was nearly complete and the city went ahead with last-minute, safety-critical installations. The state also said the city could be on the hook for some $4.4 million in costs if they didn’t comply. That is no longer the case; the DOT urged people to try to seek a remedy through the city.


“With the development that is in this area and with new development anticipated, it would seem that taking a major connector road that is part of the U.S. highway system and cutting it down to one lane is not the best course of action,” the DOT said in a press statement. “However, if the FHWA has no interest in getting involved, we have no choice but to let the construction stand.”

Opponents said despite the Department of Transportation’s announcement, they’d continue to press the street to return to what it was before. Sharon Steele, president of the Jewelry District Association, said the project has already caused headaches for businesses, traffic bottlenecks and safety concerns.

“My hope would be that someone in the administration comes to their senses and understands that this untenable situation is not going to miraculously disappear,” Steele said.

Supporters, meanwhile, cheered the news.

“I am thrilled that the federal government will not be forcing us to stay in the past, and encourage RIDOT to join us in thinking more holistically about adapting and changing our streetscapes for a safer and healthier future,” Liza Burkin, the lead organizer of the Providence Streets Coalition, said in a written statement.

Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.