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Providence Station rots away

Providence Station
Providence Station seemingly exists in two time zones according to the clocks on the tower | Photo Jef Nickerson

The Journal reported on Saturday that the parking garage at the Providence Train Station may be forced to close due to “poor design and construction and lack of maintenance.”

RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis believes work to repair the garage could cost as much as $10 million and is seeking $400,000 in federal stimulus funds to assess the situation in the garage. The garage was built in the mid-80s by Gilbane Building Co. who had no comment for the Journal regarding the structures current condition. The Journal goes on to report on the confusing array of ownership of the structure.

“It’s like a layer cake,” said Charles Meyers, who bought the garage in 2007. His company, MetroPark Ltd., has 14 parking lots and garages in and around downtown.

Working from the bottom up: The ground underneath the garage is owned by Capital Properties, which leases the land to Meyers’ Park Row Properties. Meyers’ company owns the garage, which consists of three concrete decks enclosing two levels of parking. The top deck serves as the roof of the garage.

At ground level on top of that, above the garage and adjacent to the railroad station, are city streets, Park Row and Park Row West, surrounding a pedestrian plaza whose concrete is crumbling. That’s apparently the city’s responsibility.

The state actually has no ownership stake, RIDOT is addressing the situation however due to the station’s importance to the state transportation system.

So, are we surprised about any of this? Sadly, no. For years we’ve been watching the station crumble and the rainbow of ‘owners’ has allowed for no one to have to take the issue by the riegns. Some photos:

Providence Station in 2006:

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

2008:

Providence Station

2009:

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

Providence Station

The fact that we might have to close down a ~25 year old parking garage on account of “poor design and construction and lack of maintenance” is one thing, but these photos make me embarrased to live in Providence. Providence Station is a major gateway to our city and this is what it looks like? The city will tell us they have no money (taxpayer dollars as they call money) to deal with this problem, and I understand that is true. But who let this station rot for the last decades? We wouldn’t have the financial crisis in regards to this were it simply cared for properly from the start. Eventually, taxpayer dollars will have to be spent to fix this, we can’t just close the garage and allow the station to be swallowed by the earth. City, state, or federal, someones dollars are going to pay for this shortsightedness. I really have no words, I am just disgusted.

Photos by Jef Nickerson

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15 Responses to Providence Station rots away

  1. Chris November 30, 2009 at 8:49 am #

    I agree. It’s absolutely disgusting in a new development area of high rises and as a gateway to the city. What’s bizarre, is that the “multiple” owners have not maintained the property and now it looks like this.

  2. jencoleslaw November 30, 2009 at 9:37 am #

    My fear is that without a viable train station, that Amtrak will stop servicing Rhode Island and we most certainly cannot afford that. What is Amtrak’s stake in this station? Anything? At some point an owner must be held responsible for allowing it to fall apart–aren’t there any codes that need to be adhered to? Who enforces that? The city or the state?

  3. Alger November 30, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    One of my favorite wintertime memories of recent years was standing in front of the rail station, waiting for a bus ankle-deep in slush and throwing snow balls at the rats crawling about the decayed cement landscaping. All this right across the street from the State House.

    There is so much wrong with that Stalinist monstrosity that this posting only hints at. The spalling cement and puddling water everywhere in the plaza indicates the general level of care taken in building. Someone planted corn in the north landscaping this year, which was a nice change from the ragweed. And can someone please explain WHY Amtrack employees are allowed to park on the sidewalks? It shatters the fragile cement and they occasionally hit the walls of the building when they aren’t running over pedestrians.

    The garage is the least of their problems.

  4. Peter Brassard November 30, 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    Is it true that the north widened sidewalk area as well as the station itself belongs to Amtrak, unlike the south plaza and streets and garage below? Since technically the north widened sidewalk area is not the street, Amtrak employees or security personnel seem to feel entitled to parking there. Perhaps they do it to avoid parking tickets. I wonder if the city has noticed or cares, probably not.

  5. pupdadco November 30, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    About four years ago, while on a Christmas visit to my family, I decided to take my dad for a day trip to NYC on the Acela. He wanted to go, see NYC all dressed up for the holiday and such and do some shopping. Our train left at something like 7 in the morning…so, I proceeded to park in the garage…and at that time I thought “what a dump!” just from the experience of the garage. Then, getting in the train station proper, my thoughts were solidified. Even inside the “lobby” (termed used loosely) I was taken aback at what a piece of crap this train station was, considering it was fairly new (for PVD) and what a waste of opportunity to create something worth the area as it transitioned for the better for PVD…it really is sad…

  6. lorelei November 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    Try using the walkway that bisects the green lawn during the winter! It’s flooded, slushed, frozen, never shoveled and totally a disaster for any commuter trying to get to the train station.

  7. Bret Ancowitz December 1, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    The Providence Station situation is an ongoing outrage, and the lack of action/concern by everyone (neighboring properties, city, state, Amtrak, etc) is mind-boggling.

    In my mind, the Providence Station woes (underinvestment and maintenance in infrastructure, public transit, civic spaces, etc, etc) is the poster child for everything wrong with Rhode Island and, one could say somewhat bombastically but with some truth I think, the entire American economy and society.

  8. Andrew December 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    Oh well, that station needs to be replaced anyway with a multimodal facility: Streetcars and buses above, commuter rail and Amtrak below.

  9. Jef Nickerson December 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Very true. The station was underbuilt to begin with. Built well within the reign of the automobile, almost as an afterthought, a ‘well, I guess we need a place for trains.’ When it was built, seemingly no one imagined gas would hit $4 a gallon and people might volunteer to leave their cars at home.

  10. Peter Brassard December 3, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

    The station is just one under built item with the Providence rail infrastructure.

    Didn’t the old Union Station have 4 platforms with 8 tracks? An old aerial photo would confirm how many there actually were. Granted only 2 tracks had been in use for decades before the station was abandoned. Consider today’s use of the multitude of platforms in New Haven that weren’t abandoned. Providence had a similar configuration and now it doesn’t, once again great planning.

    Another short sighted decision was made when the rail corridor was electrified and the tracks were replaced. Between Pawtucket and Providence, even well into the 1980s, there were 4 parallel tracks similar to what can be found today between Connecticut and Maryland. Bridges that go over the track right-of-way that were built in the 20th century always allowed enough room for 4 tracks, even in South County. When the track replacement took place the 2 new tracks were shifted slightly off center and following when the “Third Rail” freight line was added it also was shifted making it impossible to install 4-track corridor in the future.

    Would the federal government once again have to foot the bill to completely replace relatively new infrastructure because of Rhode Island’s inability to plan for growth or flexibility?

  11. mental757 December 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    Add cutting off or at least not leaving a ROW from the station to the east side train tunnel as a major short-sighted decisionas well.

  12. mental757 December 4, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    I’d also like to add that I think it is possible to add a platform along the track that is closest to the State House. Right now, there is a retaining wall with unkempt vegetation above it along the street where they could build a cummuter rail platform on that side of that track.

  13. Peter Brassard December 4, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    It seems that you’re right. Looking at an aerial the north edge of the station appears to align with the retaining wall below. The area under the “plaza” and adjacent green embankment could be location for a 6th track. A platform could be sandwiched in between. I wonder if SOM had that in mind when they designed the Capital Center Master Plan and later when they designed the train station building itself.

    The tragedy or blunder is that it would have been relativity cheap when Capital Center was under construction to shift the retaining wall north and leave a wider tunnel for future use. To do that now would be a huge expense and disruptive to the functioning train station.

  14. Jef Nickerson December 31, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    PBN reports that RIDOT is seeking $400,000 in federal funds for engineering analysis at Providence Station.

    Also, $1.2 million for engineering work at a possible commuter rail platform at Kingston Station.

  15. jencoleslaw January 1, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    i don’t want to seem all providence-centric, but really? 400K for an analysis of the pvd station? for a hot cup of tea and a muffin I’ll tell them that it needs fixing. 400K hardly seems like enough to even begin to THINK about tackling that problem.

    Meanwhile, 1.2 mil for Kingston? The town in which there is a university, a land grant university that is using its land as parking lots? a university that, at least up until recently, wouldn’t work with RIPTA to get students and faculty and staff using the bus? Really?

    it is 27 minutes into the new year and I’m already cranky!

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