PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The motorists in this busy intersection watched the man with the paintbrush warily. His shorts were smeared with paint as he dodged traffic to continue the 3-mile stripe of green he’s painting through downtown.

“I have a dream that someday a little child from Boston will take a field trip to see this,” Robert Burke said as he prepared to paint through a particularly dicey intersection. “A lot of what I’m doing is just showing people what has always been here.”

History may be written by the victors, but in Providence it’s outlined in green paint by Burke. The restaurateur is creating a three-mile Independence Trail, a walking route showcasing the city’s history. He said he grew tired of local schoolchildren heading to Boston to see historic sites when Providence offers so many of its own.

The meandering trail is set to be completed today. The route passes dozens of historic sites including a home where George Washington stayed, a memorial to the Irish famine, Revolutionary War spots and the site of an Abraham Lincoln speech. Burke got the idea for the trail from Boston’s Freedom Trail, a 2 1/2-mile-long red line that highlights that city’s historic sites.

The hope is that the trail will give tourists and residents alike a new reason to explore Providence.

“We’re hopeful the trail could be a catalyst for economic activity in Providence,” said David Ortiz, spokesman for Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. “It’s creating something that could be a national tourist destination right here in downtown Providence that highlights the city’s architecture and history.”

Providence resident Brandon Brown says he didn’t know what to think when the green stripe suddenly appeared throughout downtown.

“I wondered what it was,” he said as he stood on the trail while waiting for a bus home from work Thursday. “It sounds like a good idea. This whole freaking city is a historic site.”

After winning the blessing of city and state leaders, Burke donated his time — and 47 gallons of paint — to make the trail a reality. On Wednesday, he dodged cars and buses to complete one of the last segments through a busy downtown plaza. He paused briefly to clean a plaque marking the spot where Lincoln spoke.

Burke’s love of Rhode Island history is rivaled by his good-natured loathing of Boston. He still hasn’t forgotten Massachusetts’ expulsion of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams 375 years ago.

“The people of Boston indicted, arrested, convicted and sentenced Roger Williams to exile because he preached freedom of conscience,” he said. “Bostonians are the descendants of freedom’s Neanderthals.”

Wiping green paint from his hands, Burke said the trail is as much about Rhode Island’s history as its past. As the state struggles with high unemployment and government deficits, Burke said he’s trying to lift its self-esteem.

“Rhode Island has never needed something to believe in, to be proud of, as much as it does now,” he said. “We were innovators once. We did it with sailing ships. We did it with the Industrial Revolution. It’s time to recapture that spirit.”