By Chris Barrett
PBN Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE – Plans to extend commuter rail service over the next two years to Warwick and North Kingstown remain on track, state officials said last week.
The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) is expected to add commuter rail stops at T.F. Green Airport later this year and at Wickford Junction in 2011, R.I. Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Michael Lewis told Providence Business News last week.
“Growth in transportation in New England, and Rhode Island specifically, is not going to come in the form of highway expansion,” he said.
The Wickford project cleared “a major hurdle” when officials finalized the purchase of land and easements necessary to build the station and accompanying parking garage.
The MBTA would provide commuter service to Wickford Junction, which lies close to the intersection of Route 2 and Route 4 in North Kingstown.
Lewis said the MBTA has agreed to run the route and has tentatively planned eight weekday round trips. Daily ridership is projected at approximately 1,750.
The line would run from Wickford to the new station now under construction at T.F. Green, then stop at Providence before making its way to Boston’s South Station.
The DOT estimates the Wickford project will cost $30 million, with 80 percent being covered by the federal government. The project will include a station, track siding and a 1,100-space parking garage.
Lewis said the state would own both buildings but planned to contract out their management. The state will also sign off on any parking fees at the garage and revenue above and beyond the cost of operating and maintaining the garage will go to the state, he said.
Lewis said the new commuter service would allow Rhode Island to tap into the existing Northeast corridor rail line that cuts through the Ocean State, while slashing commuting time between the southern portion of the state and Providence and Boston.
“That is sort of the two-fold beauty of this service,” Lewis said. “It very much stretches the reasonable commuting distance for accessing the Boston market.”
That, Lewis said, could help spur economic activity while taking vehicles off the overburdened Routes 4 and 95. The DOT is also studying the feasibility of bringing commuter to West Kingston and has applied for federal stimulus money to conduct preliminary engineering work.
Lewis also said there are currently no plans for Amtrak service to Wickford or T.F. Green.
Additional information is available at dot.state.ri.us.