Photo (cc) CCCPxokkeu
The Woonsocket Patch has news this week about State Rep. Lisa Baldelli Hunt’s desire to see commuter rail service re-established to Woonsocket. Woonsocket has a rich rail history which formerly connected the city to Providence, Worcester, Hartford, and Boston. Sadly, the last passenger trains departed Woonsocket in the 1960s.
Badeli Hunt would like to see rail service return to Woonsocket and has asked Senator Reed to secure federal transportion funds, which were rejected by Florida’s Governor, and bring those funds to Rhode Island for Woonsocket commuter rail service.
“In addition to putting existing resources to better use, taking cars off a congested route, and better enabling northern Rhode Islanders to access employment and other opportunities in Providence, a commuter rail would undoubtedly have a positive impact on Main Street, Woonsocket, bringing commuters who will be looking for the convenience of nearby shopping, dining and other services,” said Baldelli Hunt (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket) in the letter, a copy of which, her offices report, was also sent to the governor.
Of course this is not the first time commuter rail service to Woonsocket has been brought up. The city of Woonsocket, in conjunction with RIDOT, the Pawtucket Foundation (Woonsocket commuter rail would operate through Pawtucket), and others have been studying the restoration of rail service to the Blackstone Valley.
I am all about bringing rail service back to Woonsocket and wrote about it extensively here. So I applaud Rep. Baldelli Hunt for seeking to make it happen, however:
Baldelli Hunt said her interest in the idea was re-ignited this week by news that the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is considering a two-mile streetcar system in Providence at an estimated cost of $76 million.
The representative offered the commuter rail as an alternative to the streetcar system, saying, “starting a commuter rail service on existing track connecting the urban core of Woonsocket to Providence, where many area residents work, would be a far more effective use of transportation funding than a short and expensive new streetcar route in an area already well-served by public transportation.”
OK, let’s slow down a minute. First, the Florida money deadline is well past, maybe why Rep. Baldelli Hunt thinks she needs to take our streetcar money. Second, we haven’t been awarded the Florida money, and there is no garantee we will be awarded it. Third, I’ve already explained why a streetcar in Providence is a good investment.
Fourth, why does this have to be Providence vs. Woonsocket, streetcar vs. commuter rail, north vs. south? Why is it a foreign concept for anyone to imagine that we migtht be able to have both a streetcar in Providence and commuter rail to Woonsocket?
We didn’t sit and argue over whether we would rebuild the Pawtucket River Bridge or the Sakonnet River Bridge, there was never any doubt that we would rebuild both. We don’t spend any time debating whether Route 10 or Route 146 will be plowed in the winter, we always plow both. Quonset Park Access Road or Iway, both duh!
Why is it impossible for our representatives in the Assembly to Imagine a Rhode Island where we have both a Providence Streetcar and Woonsocket Commuter Rail? Don’t we deserve both?
“The need for such a service is readily apparent every rush hour on Route 146, where traffic is often at a standstill for miles between its intersection with Route 146A and as far away as the State Police barracks in Lincoln. If even a relatively small number of cars along that route were taken off the road by newly minted train commuters, congestion, pollution and road maintenance costs would all be eased,” [Baldelli Hunt] wrote in the letter [to Senator Reed].
And wouldn’t those rail commuters love to step off the train and onto a streetcar to take them to their jobs at Brown or Rhode Island Hospital or in the Jewelry District?