Digging Deeper: Too close to the curb?

About 15 years ago, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation put up more than 200 decorative street lights in the Centredale and Marieville sections of North Providence.

Twenty-seven have been wiped clean from their bases by passing motorists, and are too expensive to replace at $4,200 each.

"They're designed to basically if you hit them, they'll break, so they don't damage vehicles. The unfortunate part of that is, most of the time, is that it lets the vehicle drive away," said Ralph Nahigian, director of communications for North Providence.

The location of similar decorative light posts in Chepachet has also drawn some concern. The Department of Transportation recently installed 31 lamp posts, and two have already been side-swiped by passing vehicles.

So why are they so close to the curb? An engineer for the DOT says it's to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"There's only so much room in the sidewalk where we can put them in with the current ADA laws," said Bob Smith, deputy chief engineer.

The width of the sidewalk in Chepachet according to the DOT is 5 feet. Clearance required by law is 3 feet. But the statewide standard, to give a little leeway, is 3 1/2 feet. That length is why in Chepachet the lamp posts are so close, 1 foot from the curb to the base.

The DOT said it could have moved the bases in 6 inches further away from the curb and the Chepachet lamp posts would have still been legal, but insisted on the extra wiggle room.

"We voiced our concerns over the course of the summer and the project, but it was in the plan and that's the way they went in," said Glocester councilman George Steere.

It's a cautionary tale for towns getting the decorative lighting, especially when the towns take possession of the projects, and are responsible for maintaining or replacing ones that get damaged.

"They should be involved by maybe asking who else has the lights in the community and how well it works out," Nahigian said.