By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 12 p.m.)
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The R.I. Department of Transportation has asked the federal government to pay for engineering work that could lay the groundwork for commuter rail service to the Kingston train station.
The agency had asked for $1.2 million to undertake engineering and design work in preparation for a 2-mile siding to run parallel with the existing rails at the station in West Kingston, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin told Providence Business News on Wednesday. The money would come from federal stimulus funds set aside for rail projects.
If built, the siding and accompanying platform would allow slower trains to pull off the main line and allow faster trains, such as Amtrak’s high-speed Acela service, to pass, St. Martin said. The Acela does not stop at West Kingston currently.
The siding could also position the station to receive commuter trains, though that remains merely a long-term idea, St. Martin said. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) already serves Providence and is scheduled to add stops in the coming years at new stations now under construction at T.F. Green Airport and Wickford Junction.
Separately, DOT has requested $400,000 for engineering studies that would assess problems at the Providence train station parking garage and suggest repairs. In November, DOT Director Michael Lewis said the garage might need to close because of severe deterioration.
St. Martin said the DOT was unsure when it might receive a response from the Federal Railroad Administration about its requests.
According to Amtrak, 160,420 passengers boarded or got off trains at the Kingston station in the year ended Sept. 30, 2008. The station opened in 1875 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Separately, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri’s office said the DOT on Wednesday finalized the purchase of property needed for the Wickford Junction train station and parking garage.
The federal government picked up 80 percent of the $3.2 million cost of the land and easements located on Route 102 in North Kingstown, near its intersection with Route 4.
“This is a major step needed to fulfill the promise of extending commuter rail service to South County,” Carcieri said in a statement. The MBTA is expected to extend service to North Kingstown in 2011.