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News & Notes

If you’re on Twitter or Facebook and live in Providence, then you’ve seen this story posted a thousand times already today, if you’re not, then here you go:

The New York Times: 36 Hours in Providence, R.I.

Providence’s grit and obscurity make it easy to underestimate. On the verge of bankruptcy, with a former mayor who served four years in federal prison for racketeering conspiracy, the capital of the country’s smallest state has something of an image problem. But like Portland, Ore., or Austin, Tex., it’s also a town many times more creative and cosmopolitan than its modest population and municipal troubles suggest. Home to an Ivy League college, one of the best design schools in the country and a major culinary institute, Providence, unsurprisingly, has exceptional food, compelling art and architecture, a thriving gay scene and an inordinate number of very smart people. Yet the city remains unpretentious and affordable, a place where even the best restaurants rarely demand reservations.


Boston Society of Architects: Why punish Rhode Island?

…the [Boston-Providence] corridor has remained overshadowed, particularly after a few recent academic and professional Boston–Washington (Bos-Wash) rail concepts that shift the primary rail corridor between Boston and Washington westward, away from Providence and southern Rhode Island. The shift would reward regions and states, such as Connecticut, that have pursued a suburban auto-centric approach well into the 21st century. In turn, the process punishes Rhode Island after 15 years of rail-oriented advancement and three major breakthroughs…

See also: Fast Lane: High speed rail: right here, right now


The Naked City: Is a streetcar speedy? And other red herrings

But lost in that analysis, and in remarks by some that a streetcar is just a toy, is this: Development reacts to streetcars very differently from the way it reacts to bus routes.

Cities all over the country have built or are building streetcars and seeing them lure development. These are not all big places like Seattle, which has seen revitalization along its South Lake Union streetcar. They’re places like Little Rock, Ark., where North Little Rock has benefited from streetcar-induced development.


The New York Times: Would-Be Landlords Covet a Landmark

Problems at Kansas City’s Power and Light Building mirror the issues we’re having with our Superman Building.

Efficiency-minded office users no longer are attracted to the building’s small floor plates — there is only one tenant, which occupies three floors — so its viability is tied to reuse as apartments or a hotel. Developers who in the past have proposed just such conversions now are competing for one more shot to fulfill those dreams.


Smart Growth America: The difficult business of building on old gas stations

Across the country abandoned gas stations represent one of the trickiest problems facing small towns and big cities alike. In particular, old gas stations pose a threat to the land when their underground storage tanks begin to deteriorate, potentially leaking petroleum into the groundwater.

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8 Responses to News & Notes

  1. Tony P July 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I think the punishment of RI and Providence in particular is because the line they’re proposing is a high speed line and we’ve got NOWHERE to put new track in the city, that is unless we tunnel underground.

  2. Jef Nickerson July 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Neither do Boston, New York, Hartford, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington…

    The whole point is to connect to where the people are.

  3. Peter Brassard July 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Specifically called out in Amtrak’s updated report is that tunneling would be required for Providence.

  4. Alon Levy July 13, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    Does anyone know the precise alignment through Providence? The legacy alignment is out – the plan calls for express trains to skip the city (but serve the great metropolis of Route 128), whereas the curve immediately north of Providence Station reduces the time saved from running nonstop through it to not much more than dwell.

    Are they planning on tunneling through the city, or on a peripheral station around I-295?

  5. barry July 13, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    I think it is likely this is being taken too seriously, there is no foreseeable fudning for any of this, and even existing Amtrak service is at risk as Mitt Romney has singled out Amtrak for elimination (along with NPR, Planned Parenthood..) of Federal support.
    Providence is a problem for true high speed rail but I believe so is the shoreline corridor from about Westerly to New Haven.

  6. Peter Brassard July 13, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Also, even if Amtrak survives assuming that there are no delays it will be 28 years before the project is completed. There will be a lot changes to the plan before that happens.

  7. Tom B July 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Aside from altering National politics, the only way something like Bos-Wash HSR will happen is if someone or some group steps up and proposes a vision, promotes the issue, builds consensus, raises funds, forges a lucrative public-private partnership or three. But since this is all just talk, why not assume it could happen?

    Amtrak plan changes every other year. They now have “28 years to go.” Next year, they might drop the NE regional improvements and pledge to do it in 10 years (which might actually mean 40 years). Point is, its all fungible. More than anything, Providence needs to advocate for a stop along the way, lest we fall off the regional development map when it does happen. Lots of things change in 5, 10, 20 years.

  8. Alon Levy July 17, 2012 at 12:43 am #

    One thing RI could do is see whether it can combine local needs with a favorable HSR route. For example, it could pledge to support the legacy route south to Kingston: straighten curves, collaborate with Amtrak on a shared-track schedule and construct the required overtake segments on its own, and help acquire land for a transition from the Shore Line to I-95 around Kingston to allow trains to bypass the curvy parts of the legacy line.

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