By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 3:20 p.m.)
BOSTON – Commuter rail trains will begin whisking passengers from both North Kingstown and T.F. Green Airport north to Providence and Boston in two years under an agreement approved today.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s board voted of directors this afternoon to approve expansion of the service beginning in 2011.
In Warwick, trains will stop at a new station under construction across the street from T.F. Green. The station will be connected to the airport terminal by a 1,500-foot-long sky bridge with moving sidewalks. The new facility will also include a parking garage and space for rental car operations.
Airport officials say the project will create the closest link between a rail station and an airport terminal anywhere in the country. The facility is on track to open in September 2010, Kevin Dillon, president of the R.I. Airport Corporation (RIAC), said last month.
State officials hope the addition of the new station will boost traffic at T.F. Green by making it easier for residents of the Boston area to utilize the Warwick airport instead of Boston’s Logan International. Air passenger traffic at Green has slipped this year amid the recession, according to RIAC data.
From Warwick, the train route will continue south to a new station being planned for Wickford Junction in North Kingstown. The R.I. Department of Transportation (DOT) said earlier this year it expects that station to open in mid-2010.
Although the route will use tracks owned by Amtrak, there are no plans for those trains to stop at the two new stations, Amtrak spokesman Clifford Cole said today.
MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo said a tentative schedule calls for 8 round trips each weekday between Boston and North Kingstown. There are no trips currently planned for weekends, he said.
Under the agreement approved today, the MBTA will keep all ticket revenue and the state will pay for capital costs along the Providence/Stoughton Line. The MBTA keeps the revenue to offset the costs of providing the service in Rhode Island, where trains already stop in Providence, Pesaturo said. The agreement is similar to the one already in place for the capital.
The state has contributed $11 million for improvements along the Providence/Stoughton line over the past eight years, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said. Some of that money was used to construct a new overnight layover facility in Pawtucket and to purchase new double-decker passenger coaches, he said.
Additional information on the T.F. Green Airport intermodal project is available at PVDAirport.com. Additional information on the R.I. Department of Transportation’s plans for the expansion of rail service in Rhode Island is available at dot.state.ri.us.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the MBTA is planning 16 round trips each weekday between Boston and North Kingstown. The MBTA is planning 8 round trips (or 16 one-way trips) each weekday.