For the second consecutive year, Rhode Island and Providence will throw competing highway and mass-transit expansion plans into the race for federal transportation funding.
After winning $10 million last year to help rebuild the roads around Apponaug Village in Warwick, the R.I. Department of Transportation this year is applying for its second $10 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant for the Providence Viaduct replacement project on Interstate 95.
To win a grant for the Viaduct, the Rhode Island DOT will have to beat out requests from across the country in the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (or TIGER) program, including Providence’s application for help building a city streetcar network.
After losing out on a grant for the streetcar last year, Providence is trying again in 2014 with another application for $39 million toward the $114.4 million estimated price tag of the system’s initial build-out.
Adding another layer into the mix, the state DOT is also applying for a TIGER planning grant to study the design of a new intermodal transit hub at the Providence train station, which may or may not include a streetcar stop.
The planning grant, at an estimated $1 million to $2 million, would come from a different pot of TIGER money than either the streetcar or Viaduct construction grants and not compete with those applications, according to state officials.
Last year the debate over transportation priorities was contentious, with Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee arguing the streetcar was not “shovel ready” and streetcar supporters calling the Apponaug project ill-planned and sprawl inducing.
Coming against the backdrop of rancorous disagreement about state tolling and bridge-maintenance financing, this year’s TIGER grant contest appears more collegial.
“The streetcar is a good project,” said Phillip Kydd, deputy director of the R.I. Department of Transportation. “And we also believe it is going to be complimentary for the Providence station transit hub.”