Greater City Providence


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Earlier this afternoon, the Capital Center Commission held a meeting. One of the agenda items was:

6. State House
Proposal to conduct site improvements to the existing parking lot, which includes expansion of the paved area to the east within the State House Lawn.

I’m sorry, expansion of paved area within the State House lawn is not an improvement.


Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • The worst part about this is that it’s gonna pass simply because it is the state house. How about giving the people that work there passes for RIPTA? Not that they’d use it. They’re too good to ride a bus to work.

  • It likely also passed because the Capital Center Commission meetings are at noon on workdays, rather limiting the amount of public comment.

    It should be noted, Capital Center is not supposed to have any surface parking in it.

  • There’s already a 3.5 level parking garage behind the DOA building. If they’re really serious build a 10 to 12 level above ground structure across the street.

    If you don’t want legislators and their employees playing dodge ’em across Smith Street either install an underground or overhead crossing.

  • … and Boston Common should be paved over to provide parking for the Massachusetts State House …

  • liriodendron- Boston Common is already a garage in and of itself. One was built underneath it years ago– kinda creeps, ehy? Aren’t they [RI State House/B. Common] supposed to be like sacred ground or something…

  • It’s pretty difficult to get hit on that part of Smith Street with the huge raised crosswalk. You can’t exactly fly over it (though I’ve seen people try and the resulting sparks). The General Assembly and Governor should have to walk across the street. What they should do is build a bigger parking garage across the street and dig up the State House parking for more trees and grass… though it would kill all the free Waterfire parking.

  • I wish I could enjoy the irony of more pavement for car culture barely 2 weeks after the Big Flood. More pavement of course = more runnoff directly into rivers and streams = more serious flooding in the future. When will we actually get it?

  • Smith Street is not hard to cross with the giant pedestrian mountain at the State House (which I don’t like because though it does it’s job of slowing traffic, it is not a good representation of the traffic hump concept). It would be easier to cross at other areas, such as Gaspee Street if it weren’t 4 lanes wide. It does not need to be four lanes wide. Smith Street on the far side of Route 95 is not 4 lanes wide.

    The width just makes people drive like a bat out of hell between lights and the traffic hump, to get no where fast. The street should be rebuilt with 2 lanes, 0n-street metered parking, and protected bike lanes behind the parking lanes.

  • Andy:
    I actually think they Boston Common solution is a good one for the State House. Ideally we should have as many state workers as possible on RIPTA and bikes and foot, but there will always be need for parking at the State Offices (until we finally run out of oil). So putting a garage underground with a public green space above is a good solution in my eyes. The land at the State House itself should return to green space. The other land north of Smith Street freed by building a garage can be put to use by building more State Office, you know, in the capital, not Cranston.

  • We won’t run out of oil, instead it will simply become too expensive to pump what remains out of the ground before there’s a shift to an alternative, like fully electric vehicles and alternative energy. This State’s parking lot proposal is a cultural problem. Other than a few people at RIPTA and maybe RIDOT and state planning, no one in state government and most of the population seriously buys into non-automotive transportation. They give lip service to the need for “people” to use other transportation modes, but in fact few utilize any of those options. And, what options there are aren’t very enticing, reinforcing the negative automotive spiral.

    There’s no argument about the aesthetics of burying parking under landscape, but since the State is more than broke the idea of constructing a garage and particularly an underground one may be extravagant. For the price of building 100 underground parking spaces the State could buy a streetcar or a few busses or pay the salaries for 40 transit drivers for one year.

    The proposed State House parking lot expansion is a shortsighted response to what is likely a real and urgent need for drivers going to the State House and its offices. There’s probably some Stimulus Funds lying around that the General Assembly is eyeing to implement the job. Proposing a garage is putting lipstick on the pig, but may be a better alternative to a surface lot. If an multi-level above grade garage were built on the parking lot site across Smith Street with level floors and minimum clear floor to ceiling heights of 10 feet the building could be later converted or recycled to a habitable use when parking and garages are hopefully less of a necessity as they are today.

    If the actual costs to operate a car are $10,000 a year and there are 500,000 cars in Rhode Island, even if only a quarter of that money were used for transit, it would leave a $1.25 billion budget for transit. RIPTA’s current annual budget is only about 7% of that amount. Imagine the quality of a transit system with those kinds of resources and the impact on the state. Rhode Island could honestly brag about its quality of life with that transit scenario.

    What will it take to shift conventional transportation thinking and culture of the General Assembly and the public? Maybe when the TF Green Station is opened and fully operational it will start the necessary shift in public perception about transit.

  • Electric cars are not the answer and are pretty far from the answer. After all, electricity has to come from somewhere. They need to be powered by alternative fuels, electricity is not really an alternative since most of that comes from coal anyway and our grid is pretty much at capacity. Adding in electric cars will make it that much worse.

    As for a garage, I think an underground garage at the State House would be a perfect idea. They should make it over the necessary capacity and sell off spots to commuters to Boston since the train station parking garage is already pretty much full and the State House is just across the street.

    While cars are not the answer, they are here and they’re not going anywhere, especially when it comes to our state workers and even more especially the elected officials. So what we need to do is better protect the environment and the urban nature of our city by building a garage instead of adding in more black top. Waterplace Park flooded a couple weeks ago. Adding more blacktop uphill from there is just gonna make it worse.

  • How about they just make a direct walkway from the train station to the Capital Building. I would hope that when the two new MBTA stops open up in RI, maybe some of our elected officials would be of the first to become regulars on the trains.

  • Ok, I actually went to the CCC meeting (at noon!) to take notes and have positive things to report. The Capital Center Commission pushed back on a lot of issues and it appears the State and its consultants were very responsive. The paved area is increasing less than 4%; there will be no expansion to the south past the Statehouse terrace (where the lot currently ends); improvements to landscape screening on all sides are being made; the walking path to the east is being retained and protected from washout; and they’re taking away the decrepit guard shack. While it would be nice not to have parking there at all, and personally I like to see more plantings within a parking lot , I’m confident this will be making things a bit better, not worse.

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