RI to break ground on commuter rail station
August 18, 2010 07:28 AM
PROVIDENCE — State and local officials will break ground Wednesday on a new train station in North Kingstown that will extend commuter rail service from Boston to the southern part of Rhode Island by the end of 2011.
The planned Wickford Junction train station is part of a larger project that includes a station at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. Commuter trains operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will start making three round trips to the airport this fall, and then four round trips to Wickford, 10 miles south of T.F. Green, once it opens late next year, Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Michael P. Lewis said.
“The goal is to provide a mass transit alternative to the I-95 corridor,” he said. “It really provides an opportunity to expand beyond the private automobile in Rhode Island.”
He said it would also make T.F. Green more accessible to Massachusetts residents looking for an alternative to Boston’s Logan Airport.
MBTA trains currently run to Providence several times a day. The 10-mile trip south to the airport will take about 15 minutes, and the trip to Wickford from Providence will take about 25 minutes, Department of Transportation Dana Alexander Nolfe said. The trip between Boston and T.F. Green will take 1 hour 25 minutes, she said.
The one-way fare is planned at $2.50 from Providence to Warwick, or $2.75 from Providence to Wickford.
Transportation officials have estimated the line will serve about 1,700 passengers a day, with 80 percent of them boarding at Wickford. Nolfe said that as long as ridership reaches that number, they don’t expect any costs to the state.
The project will help the state’s economy in the short run but also have other benefits, said Sen. Jack Reed, who helped secure $43 million of federal money for the station.
“In the longer run, a good transportation system is usually the backbone of development in any place,” he said. “The road systems in not just Rhode Island but all through southern New England can’t handle increased traffic.”
Lewis said the next phase of the project is to study additional opportunities to expand commuter rail service in the state, including the possibility of service to the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown or Westerly, on the Connecticut border.
He said the department was also considering the possibility of working with Connecticut’s Shore Line East, which ends in New London, and extending it to T.F. Green to provide Connecticut residents as far away as New Haven another airport alternative.
Rhode Island’s other two train stations, in Kingston and Westerly, are served by Amtrak but not commuter service.
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