By Ted Nesi
PBN Web Editor
NORTH KINGSTOWN – South County officials took another step toward bringing commuter rail service to the region last week, as the North Kingstown Planning Commission approved a proposal to update the existing master plan for the area around the proposed Wickford Junction station.
During a public meeting last week, the planning commission agreed to a request by The Cioe Companies – the developer that is partnering with the state on the Wickford Junction project – to revise its 1980s-era master plan for the 4-acre site to include a 1,077-car parking garage for commuters and shoppers.
John Cioe, the firm’s general partner, said the approval “will enable us to complete the master plan.”
Cioe and the R.I. Department of Transportation (DOT) are proposing to build a train station on an undeveloped section of Wickford Junction Plaza on Route 102 in North Kingstown as part of a 20-mile extension of MBTA commuter rail service from Boston and Providence down to Warwick and South County.
In a news release, Cioe said it is “nearing an agreement” with the state to create a public-private partnership that would carry forward the Wickford Junction redevelopment, which also would include a mixed-use retail plaza. The project would be managed by Cioe.
Earlier this month, the DOT said the project would also receive $4.1 million in federal money from the economic stimulus law signed by President Barack Obama in February.
The agreement between Cioe and the state will be finalized once agreements to expand rail service are signed with the MBTA and Amtrak. The company did not specify a date for the $56 million project’s completion, but said it would be undertaken “in phases over the next few years.” The DOT says rail service should start in mid-2010.
The Wickford Junction project had been originally slated to be completed by the end of last year. A train station that used to be there was demolished in 1968.
Wickford Junction is one of two rail projects at advanced stages in Rhode Island. The other is the Warwick Intermodal Station on Jefferson Boulevard, a $267 million project to connect T. F. Green Airport with the MBTA's commuter rail service. It is expected to be completed in 2010.
For more information on the proposed redevelopment of Wickford Junction, visit WickfordJunction.com. To find out more about the R.I. Department of Transportation’s plans for the expansion of rail service in Rhode Island, visit dot.state.ri.us.