By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
WARWICK – With backslapping and shared compliments, public officials showed off the half-complete Intermodal Project Skywalk that will connect T.F. Green Airport to a new parking garage and train station across the street.
Public officials said on Thursday the $267 million project is about 40 percent complete. When finished, a 1,200-foot-long bridge will cross Post Road and connect the terminal with a facility hosting car rental agencies, a parking garage and a commuter train station. Officials say the project is on budget and scheduled for an opening in September 2010.
R.I. Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis said the agency is close to reaching an agreement with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for commuter trains to stop at the station. The agency also wants MBTA to run trains to a proposed station in Wickford. Current plans call for Amtrak trains to bypass the airport station.
Officials said Thursday that the new facility would create an economic boost for the airport and surrounding area as train passengers come in from Providence, Boston and points in between. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said a nearby developer was already considering redeveloping his property in light of the project. Someday, the mayor hoped, the new foot traffic would lead to restaurants and other business cropping up along Post Road.
“We think overall it can be a win for the state, a win for the city and a win for the economy,” he said.
The project has been under development for more than a decade. But it was not until U.S. Sen. John Chafee secured $25 million in federal funding in 1998 that the project finally took off. State and private money also plays a role, as does money collected on a fee levied on car rentals that occur at the terminal.
The project comes as T.F. Green air ridership is falling, but R.I. Airport Corporation President Kevin Dillon said the skywalk would position the airport to reap future dividends when the economy rebounds.