Greater City Providence

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood announces high speed rail money for New England

Providence Station

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $82.7 million to improve high-speed and intercity passenger rail in Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont. The dollars will provide needed upgrades to the Northeast Corridor, Connecticut’s New Haven – Springfield line, Maine’s Downeaster route and the Vermonter service.

Rhode Island Department of Transportation. $26.2 million for the design and construction of an electrified third track parallel to the Northeast Corridor’s main line, and a new platform for the station in Kingston, RI. The third track will permit faster trains to overtake slower trains, reducing congestion and improving on-time performance on the Northeast Corridor for Amtrak and commuter trains. Throughout the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C to Boston, $1.75 billion is being invested to improve service.

Rhode Island Department of Transportation. $3 million for preliminary engineering and environmental reviews for American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant platforms at the Providence station on the Northeast Corridor. The project also includes improved parking and pedestrian access, station repairs, potential reconfiguration of transit circulation and drop-off facilities, and future tunnel improvements.

Information about funding for projects in Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont at the Federal Railroad Administration website.

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.


  • At this point I’d settle for the train to and from T.F. Green to run more than 6 times a day. Least helpful train ever, in my opinion. I look forward to the N.E. embracing the train funds (watching my home state of WI turn that away made me ill) , I’d love to take the train more frequently, as I really do hate driving out here.

  • When service to Wickford Junction starts, service to there and T.F. Green is slated to increase.

  • The frequency of train service around Kingston is, at the peak, 1 Regional and 1 Acela train per hour in each direction. And the Acela is not so much faster than the Regional that it will ever need an overtake.

  • I think Kingston will serve as the last stop for Commuter Rail for the foreseeable future, so the extra track gives them a place to layover while Amtrak continues through.

  • Commuter rail service should be expanded between TF Green and Providence by the end of this year once the last of the track work is complete. The current schedule is indeed very limited due to the track work that needed to be finished first. The next phase of service should offer a much better overall schedule. Wickford should open sometime in the first half of 2012. Kingston should be the next one after that but I have not read anything as far as when that might happen. My guess would be 2013 maybe? There are RIDOT plans that call for looking at stations in Pawtucket, Cranston, and East Greenwich as well, but I’d guess those are years away.

  • The plans for commuter rail expansion call for going to Wickford, not Kingston, and even if trains did go to Kingston, they could turn in a very small number of minutes. Spending $26 million on a train parking facility isn’t really any better than spending $26 million on three-tracking a segment that’s only planned to get 2 tph.

    And frankly, even Wickford is too far. A commuter train that stops approximately once per county is not really regional transportation. It’s more like a bizarre rush hour shuttle from a parking lot to downtown for the convenience of suburbanites. It’s an attempt to use rail to extend the drivable suburbs downtown, instead of to extend the walkable city into the suburbs.

  • Will any of those suburbs really be walkable? Take, for example, my hometown of Branford, CT. The train station there is not within walking distance of most of the population. It’s not near the downtown area of Branford (which is actually a fully walkable neighborhood, with a grocery store, banks, pharmacy, post office, restaurants, shops, parks, etc). Nothing has been built up around it except some condos that were built on the site of an old mill building. People who need the train either drive to it (there’s plenty of parking) or bike (the one time I used it to get to New Haven during normal rush hour, there were a bunch of bikes there). I see the same thing with most of our suburbs… at least when it comes to something like a commuter rail. Sure, things like a coffee shop might pop up near by, but I don’t expect it to be a walkable neighborhood when it’s a commuter rail with most people only using it to get to and from work. The same thing is true even on the Metro North line through much of CT.

    So I don’t consider it a “bizarre rush hour shuttle”, it’s a commuter rail. People use it to get to work. It’s a convenience thing, but it’s better for the environment and better for the city.

    If you want the suburbs to become more walkable, then you’ll need more of a street car than a commuter train, and that will only affect the nearby suburbs, which already have many walkable neighborhoods, but those might become more walkable.

  • The MBTA is indeed slated to reach Kingston sometime after they begin service to Wickford. Obviously there is a station at Kingston, but they are waiting to get this new track laid. The Kingston Station among other things, will serve URI. URI is hoping to team up with CCRI and build a nursing school in the Jewelry District. If they do, then they could have those students live on campus in Kingston and commute to school via the T.

    Also, at Kingston, though no concrete plan or funding or anything is in place currently, Shore Line East has made noise about expanding service to Rhode Island. It would likely reach as far as Kingston or perhaps T.F. Green or even Providence.

    More services to Kingston could be complimented with better services to Newport. People from points north of Providence for example, could take the T to Kingston then connect to a well timed bus transfer to Newport.

  • Alon is right about the “rush hour shuttle.” I can’t help but be happy to see shiny new trains. However, these investments are not transformative. They will actually increase the demand for sprawly growth in South County.

    The focus on getting a rather small number of long-distance commuters off route 4 and 95 is crowding out investment that would transform the neighborhoods that were build before the automobile age back into walkable places where people can choose to live without depending on cars.

Providence, RI
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