By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
(Updated, 12:30 p.m.)
NORTH KINGSTOWN – State and federal officials gathered in Wickford Wednesday morning to break ground on a new commuter rail station that will serve trains running to Boston.
The head of the Federal Transit Authority also used the event to announce $2 million in federal money to pay for preliminary plans to build a station in Pawtucket.
The North Kingstown station known as Wickford Junction will include the construction of a station along with a parking garage and track work. Trains from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority are expected to start pulling into the station next year.
The whole project is expected to cost $58 million, with $48 million coming from the federal government and the rest coming from the state, according to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s office.
“It’s going to be a great way to not only provide short-term work for people during the construction phase but longer term it will be a focal point for economic development,” Reed told Providence Business News.
Officials attending Wednesday’s groundbreaking included Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, Federal Transit Administration Administrator Peter Rogoff, R.I. Department of Transportation Director Michael P. Lewis, U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin, D-R.I., and Reed.
Reed’s has worked to bring federal money for the project since 1993. Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, secured $32.6 million in earmarks. The federal government provided an additional $4.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Other federal money came from existing programs.
Work at Wickford will start as the state winds down construction at a new commuter rail station in Warwick connected to T.F. Green Airport. Trains will eventually run from Wickford to Boston, stopping in Warwick and Providence along the way.
“Wickford Junction is one very important piece of the puzzle,” Reed said. “It makes the Warwick investment even more valuable because if Warwick was just the endpoint we wouldn’t get the same level of ridership.”
Officials expect the Warwick station to open this fall. State officials have also broached the idea of extending MBTA service to South Kingstown and Westerly. Reed said there has even been discussion about bringing MBTA trains as far south as Connecticut.