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→ The Herald News: Flanagan says Foxwoods has secured option for 30 acres in South End of Fall River; source says location is New Harbour Mall

new-harbor-mall

Image from Google Streetview

On Jan. 28, Foxwoods Casino CEO Scott Butera unveiled plans to develop a $750 million resort casino in Fall River that would include a 140,000-square-foot gambling floor, approximately 20 restaurants, a 350-room hotel, a “name-brand” shopping mall, an entertainment arena and a convention center and spa.

Officials said the project would reportedly create between 3,000 and 5,000 jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenue.

Some of those jobs will likely go to Rhode Islanders, the reported site sits right on the state line along Route 24, however that revenue will not be coming to Rhode Island. When exactly is the R.I. General Assembly going to come up with a plan to ween us of our dependence on gambling revenue?

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Assembly members seek federal waiver for RIPTA to cross into Fall River

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Fall River

As part of attempts to restore service to Tiverton and Little Compton, RIPTA is looking into strategies to connect that service to SRTA in Fall River.

Legislators ask for federal waiver to connect potential RIPTA route to Fall River bus line

STATE HOUSE – Four state senators and representatives from Aquidneck Island have sent a letter to the Rhode Island Congressional delegation, requesting their assistance in allowing the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) to receive a waiver of insurance for interstate travel between Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Representatives John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Portsmouth, Tiverton) and Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), as well as Senators Christopher S. Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) and Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Dist. 10, Warren, Bristol, Tiverton), have been engaging in discussions with RIPTA for the past year with the hope that the authority will return service to Tiverton. Currently in discussion is a proposal to create a more profitable route that could connect to a Massachusetts bus line in Fall River, which RIPTA officials say requires a waiver at the federal level.

The letter states: “RIPTA, as you are aware, is self-insured. For them to carry insurance beyond their own would be cost prohibitive and would effectively kill any sort of connection to the SRTA system. The staff at RIPTA has told us that they would only drive into Fall River MA for approximately a half mile to make the connection and turn around their busses”

In September, Representative Edwards sent a letter to RIPTA Chairman Scott Avedisian – also the mayor of Warwick – expressing his concern about the lack of RIPTA’s presence in his district, pointing out that public transportation and infrastructure is a crucial “instrument of job growth” and benefits other areas of importance like “education, daycare and general livability”

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MassDOT Releases 21st-Century Transportation Plan; Fully Funds South Coast Rail

massdot-new-bedford-rails

Crews work on a New Bedford rail bridge in October 2010. Photo © MassDOT

Highlights:

Building on the Patrick-Murray Administration’s record of commitment to the South Coast, the plan includes funding for the completion of the South Coast Rail Line with diesel-fueled commuter trains to connect Boston to Fall River and New Bedford. The $1.8 billion investment will result in greater mobility for South Coast residents and less congestion on Route 24. The project is expected to create 3,800 jobs and generate $500 million in new economic activity statewide annually.

The plan will also include a $5.4 million increase in funding for the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) in FY14. The South Coast investments in the plan, including interchange improvements at Routes 24 and 140 in Taunton, improvements to Route 6 and Fauce Corner Road in Dartmouth and reconstruction of Route 18 from Cove Street to Griffin Court in New Bedford, are designed to ensure regional transportation equity, create jobs and expand economic opportunity.

The plan addresses systemic budget deficits at the MBTA, MassDOT and the 15 Regional Transit Authorities, much of which has been caused by the debt burden related to the Central Artery.

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Wicked Local Westport: Creating an interstate public transit partnership

When it comes to providing public transit to Tiverton, Rhode Island officials may be reinventing the wheel instead of expanding the spokes that are already there.

There is much to be gained. If SRTA and RIPTA followed normal commuter patterns instead of treating as a blockade a state border that motorists and pedestrians cross all the time, it could better link the region’s residents with jobs and educational opportunities crucial to the region’s economic development.

So it is not just us talking about these things.

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Comments on NEC Future

mbta-providence-place

Photo (cc) Sean_Marshall

The Federal Railroad Adminstration (FRA) is running a planning program dubbed NEC Future to determine the future path of rail development in the Northeast Corridor running from Boston to Washington. Greater City Providence reader Peter Brassard submitted the following comments to the FRA in response to the study’s request for public comment.

Content Summary

  1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
  2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
  3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track NEC corridor in Rhode Island and Eastern Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
  4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
  5. Develop Providence/Fall River/New Bedford interstate LRT
  6. Develop Providence to Worcester Commuter Rail Service
  7. New England track electrification and use of DMUs and EMUs
  8. Add multiple infill train stations within Providence’s urban core cities
  9. Develop Rhode Island Mainline Rail Transit
  10. Extend Train Service to Aquidneck Island
  11. New York to New Jersey – Penn Station New York to the Portal Bridge
  12. Penn Station New York to Grand Central connecting rail tunnel
  13. Extend the New York #7 Subway line to Hoboken Terminal
  14. Boston South Station to North Station connecting rail tunnel

1. Construct a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station
The study should include planning for a T.F. Green Airport Amtrak Station. Amtrak Regional service, as well as MBTA commuter trains could serve the station. Service models for this station would be the BWI Airport Station in Baltimore and Newark Airport Station in New Jersey.

2. NEC High Speed Rail (HSR) bypass between East Haven and Westerly
Study a HSR bypass option that would link the existing NEC between East Haven and Westerly following the routes I-95 and RI-78 corridor. This bypass would avoid excessively curved sections of eastern Connecticut’s legacy rail right-of-way, which would allow for significantly higher speeds for HSR service. This option could be a cost effective alternative to constructing a second completely new Southern New England HSR corridor from Westchester County through central Connecticut to Hartford and to Providence. There could be an opportunity to combine funding for a rail bypass and upgrading and increasing capacity to route I-95 simultaneously.

3. Reserve the option to construct a four-track corridor in Rhode Island and Connecticut, as well as between Providence and Westwood
Amtrak has proposed creating a four-track rail corridor between Providence to Westwood. Other sections of Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence had the corridor width to accommodate four tracks. Also many bridges had been designed to allow for four tracks throughout the state. When the New Haven to Boston NEC segment was electrified in the 1990s, replacement tracks were installed off-center in much of Rhode Island to allow for the tilting feature on Acela trains.

Develop an alternate that would reserve the option to re-build Rhode Island’s NEC rail segment south of Providence Station to four-tracks and if a HSR bypass is not planned for or constructed between East Haven and Westerly in Eastern Connecticut, to accommodate for future expanded track usage of high-speed and regional trains, commuter rail/mass-transit, and freight service. A Rhode Island four-track corridor would typically only require the acquisition of narrow strips of land adjacent to the existing corridor to meet current standards for high-speed track centers, while in other instances no land acquisition would be necessary.

Even if four tracks are not built in Rhode Island or Connecticut for decades, planning for a their future installation would insure that other federal and state funds will not be wasted when infrastructure, such as bridges are constructed or replaced over the NEC. With the current offcenter track configuration in Rhode Island, off-center abutments or column placements for new bridges could make future track expansion problematic and unnecessarily expensive.

4. Develop Providence to Cape Cod Rail Service using an existing corridor
Develop year-round rail service from Cape Cod to Providence, T.F. Green Airport, and beyond to New York. Service could be provided by Amtrak or alternately by a commuter rail agency from Cape Cod to Providence and T.F. Green with connections to Amtrak. Study the reuse of the existing rail right-of-way from Providence to Attleboro to Cape Cod.

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And you want a train, and you want a train…

New London

Amtrak train at New London Station. Photo (cc) mjpeacecorps

The Day of New London editorialized this week about our new train service to Wickford Junction. The gist of the editorial being they like more trains and want even more. Currently, New London is stuck in a bit of a train void, Shore Line East service to New London does not run on weekends, and at this point neither does MBTA service to Wickford Junction. Nonetheless, a weekday drive from New London to Wickford Junction, parking in the garage, and a ticket to Boston cost less than either driving straight through, or paying for direct Amtrak service from Boston to New London.

New Londoners seem pleased that at the Wickford Junction ground breaking, MBTA officials expressed optimism for extending service further south the Westerly, which would put MBTA commuter rail service within 15 miles of New London. At the same time, weekend Shore Line East service to New Haven from New London is set to start in a year (putting Westerly within 15 miles of commuter rail service to New Haven and New York).

Meanwhile, The Herald News of Fall River reports that officials in Bristol County, Massachusetts are a little miffed that we’re getting commuter rail service built deeper into Rhode Island while Fall River, Taunton, and New Bedford still lack commuter rail service. Though Mass. State Sen. Michael Rodrigues is realistic about the issues involved.

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Fall River’s Veterans Memorial Bridge opens westbound

Fall River-Somerset, Veterans Memorial Bridge, September 2011

Fall River-Somerset Veterans Memorial Bridge. Photo © MassDOT

Have you been sitting in traffic on the Braga Bridge in the last decade and looked north to see a new bridge being built? Ever wonder when the hell that thing was going to bedone. Today the bridge, named the Veterans Memorial Bridge, had a soft opening today.

The bridge will eventually connect Route 79 in Fall River to Somerset. The bridge carries Route 6 and will replace the aging Brightman Street drawbridge, which was built in 1906. The new bridge is also a drawbrige, but with a higher span, will require less openings allowing road and water traffic to move more freely.

Continue Reading →

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News & Notes

→ Regional bike path would include Fall River, Cape Cod [South Coast Today]

Thus was born the SouthCoast Regional Bikeway Summit, a Feb. 15 event that will gather representatives from this region and others to discuss creating a regional bikeway. Sponsored by Mass in Motion, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, UMass Dartmouth and the Council on Sustainability, the summit will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Advanced Technology & Manufacturing Center in Fall River.

On the table that day will be a vision to create a bike trail network that extends from Swansea to Wareham and north to Taunton and Mansfield, ultimately connecting with paths in Rhode Island and on Cape Cod.

“From Providence to Provincetown, that’s the way we sort of coin it,” said [Mass in Motion coordinator Pauline C.] Hamel. “And we’re not just talking about biking. These are intermodal pathways for walking, pushing strollers, wheelchairs — there’s a lot more to it.”

→ European Urbanism: Lessons from a City without Suburbs [Planetizen]

While searching for policies and levers to stem new or to retrofit existing suburbs, it might also be instructive to look for precedents, real examples of a city as it would be on arrival at the “end of the suburban project”. Precedents not only would lure planners and people by the power of their images but could also become practical guides. A contemporary precedent, were it to be found, would have great convincing power since it would have dealt with the modern issues of mobility, accessibility and commerce.

Reassuringly, at least one such city does exist: one that has reformed its suburbs to the point where they are indistinguishable from the mother “city” – Athens, Greece. This article looks at this example, attempts to draw lessons and raises disquieting questions.

→ New evidence cities rule and suburbs drool [Grist]

Suck it, Thoreau: Looks like big cities are the way to go if you’re looking to lower your environmental impact. According to a new study published in the journal Environment and Urbanization, carbon emissions in cities are lower than in the car-dependent burbs.

→ R.I. DOT leaves highway logo fee discussion to legislature [Providence Business News]

After facing fierce opposition from business owners, the R.I. Department of Transportation has backed down from a plan to charge businesses whose logos appear on informational signs along the state’s highways.

→ Community celebrates arts center [Brown Daily Herald]

About 350 attendees explored the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at its dedication ceremony last night, taking in the wide variety of student artwork — incorporating visual art, sound, video, dance and sculpture — that adorns the latest addition to the campus.
The building — which has been open for classes since Jan. 26 — will not be host to any one department, but will “manifest new modes of dialogue between different disciplines,” said Richard Fishman P’89, director of the Creative Arts Council and a professor of visual art, who has championed the building since long before it existed.

Shameless Plug: Please feel free to nominate us as Best Blog in the Phoenix’s Best of 2011. You could also ask your friends, your mom, and your cat to nominate us if you like.

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News & Notes

→ RIPTA restoring 100 daily runs with re-opening of Warwick Mall [Warwick Beacon]
I had no idea 100 trips ran to Warwick Mall, probably because that is the total of 3 different bus lines. There must be someway for RIPTA to make it more apparent that so many buses go to the mall.

→ Massachusetts Congressional Delegation Touts “Death Knell” for LNG [Newport Now]

→ Not just another strip mall [South County Independent]
Nice to see someone in South County editorializing against sprawl. However, it is maddening to learn that The Kingstown Road Special Management District prohibits drive-thru windows. Drive-thrus are banned in the sprawling hinterland of Peace Dale, but not on Hope Street in Providence. Ugh.

→ Free Parking Comes at a Price [The New York Times]

→ Access Denied Flickr Group
“This group is a place to show how inaccessible the world can be to wheelchair users, and people with all kinds of disabilities.”

[Flickr via Transportation for America]

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News & Notes

→ Mass. Senate approves bill licensing 3 casinos [ProJo]
The bill includes an ammendment allowing Fall River to develop a casino on 300 acres of land at the northern edge of the city. Here in Rhode Island, Gordon Fox is making noise about calling back the Assembly to override the Governor’s veto of a casino ballot question.

→ Ximedica to expand HQ by 23,000 sq. ft. [PBN]

→ US Bicycle Route System begins connecting America [USDOT FastLane Blog]

→ Watery Future for the City of Light [New York Times]
French President and Paris Mayor at odds over closing 1.2 miles of expressway along the banks of the River Seine.

→ Readying Streetcar Plans, Cincinnati Considers Reducing Parking Requirements [The TransportPolitic]
“Cincinnati is thinking seriously about how to make its proposed streetcar system a vital element of a growing downtown, not simply a trophy piece to parade around in demonstration of its progress. The city’s Planning Commission has taken a major step in that direction by signaling its support last week to significantly reducing parking requirements in areas within two blocks of future streetcar stops.”

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News & Notes

→ Mass. buys more South Coast rail tracks [PBN]
Gov. Patrick pledges to have rail service running between New Bedford/Fall River and Boston by 2016.

The UnCaucus schedules a series of one-on-one coffees with the mayoral candidates

Northeast Corridor High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Planning
Eleven Northeast states from Maine to Maryland, with close support from Amtrak and the Coalition of Northeastern Governors (CONEG), submitted a multi-state proposal requesting that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) lead a planning effort to further define the role that intercity and high-speed passenger rail can play in helping improve the region’s transportation network, expand capacity, relieve highway and aviation congestion, and stimulate sustainable economic growth along the Northeast Corridor (NEC).

→ Spotlight on the World Cup: Transit in Durban and Pretoria [The City Fix]

→ New report shows biking and walking gains [The Fast Lane Blog]

→ What Would It Take to Fully Invest in the Northeast Corridor? [The Transport Politic]

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Casino urbanism

Truth be told, I’d rather we not have any casinos in New England. But I have said in the past, if Rhode Island were to legalize casinos, I would want to see one built in Providence rather than expansion in Lincoln or a new casino some place like West Warwick. People in Lincoln will already tell you they’re not too keen on Twin River’s traffic and noise, and that isn’t even a real casino (yet). I’d prefer the traffic and noise and other problems attached to a casino confined to the city, which can site a casino in a district suited to 24-hour use, and also hope that the casino has a positive effect on the city’s hotels, restaurants, and shopping. A casino outside Providence guarantees that people would leave Providence or never come to Providence to begin with.

Basically, my feelings are spelled out in this post by Lefty on A View From Battleship Cove. Lefty compares the proposal by the Wampanoags for an all-inclusive resort style casino on 300 acres of land at the edge of Fall River, on a site off Route 24; against a proposal by a private developer for a casino situated right in Downtown New Bedford which intends to funnel it’s patrons out into the downtown area.

It seems inevitable at this point that the casino debate will come back to life in Rhode Island at some point. With expansions at the Connecticut casinos and the likelihood of casinos in nearby Massachusetts, our state’s dependence on gambling as a major source of our revenue will be in danger. I’d prefer we diversify our economy and ween ourselves from the gaming teet, but the question will be asked again. So let’s discuss it now. If full scale casino(s) were legal in Rhode Island, where would you want to see one built and why?

Image: Rendering of proposed Fall River casino complex

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Fall River and the amazing technicolor Braga Bridge

Community Boating

Photo (cc) pierre lascott from Flickr

I had to drive to the Cape both of the last two weekends, and traveling over the Braga Bridge I had two thoughts, how many more decades is this eastbound lane restriction going to last and, when the hell is someone going to paint this damn thing?

Well, I still have no answer to the lane restriction question (that’s to do with work in the tunnel under City Hall), but the bridge painting, the Herald News of Fall River gives us an answer to that, next spring. But not only is the bridge being painted, Fall River residents are being asked to pick a new color.

The bridge currently sports a rust color… wha, hold on… I’m being told the bridge is actually green, but I find that hard to believe, I’m sure it is a shade of rust, much like the surface of Mars. Whatever, polls are being conducted at the O Jornal, WSAR-AM, and The Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce.

Though unofficial opinions around the city seemed to show that red was the front runner of color choices, MassHighway did not choose it as one of the finalist colors claiming that in other areas where bridges had been painted red, they had a tendency to fade to pink over time (and the problem with a pink bridge is what exactly?).

The final choices for the poll are shades of green, blue, and silver. Of the choices, I think I favor the dark (dare we call it Navy) blue. The Herald News has photo illustrations of the bridge color choices.

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Cahill, Patrick at odds over paying for South Coast rail

Railroad Tracks

Photo by Eric Rice from Flickr

Ted Nesi reports for Providence Business News about how Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy Cahill and Governor Deval Patrick are not seeing eye to eye on funding for restoration of Commuter Rail service to New Bedford and Fall River.

Cahill, who may make a primary challenge against the governor next year, says there is no way, in the current economic climate that the Commonwealth can fund the $1.6 billion project. The only way he sees it being built is with federal money, and the Feds, he claims, are not to eager to give a post-Big Dig Bay State any more money. Cahill’s basic claim is that Patrick made promises to South Coast voters to get elected, and Cahill claims to be stating the facts instead of playing politics.

I tend to agree with Cahill in so far as Massachusetts cannot afford a $1.6 billion infrastructure project right now, no one can. But I had always assumed that federal funding was the governor’s way forward on this. How long is the Bay State’s contrition in regards to the Big Dig to last? The claim that federal tax payers were fleeced by Massachusetts are false, the lions share of the Big Dig was paid for and is continuing to be paid for by Bay State taxpayers alone.

We have an administration in Washington that is at the least paying lip service to mass transit. Cahill might want to change tack. Being honest with the voters is good, but telling the people on the South Coast you give up, without a fight, seems not a good way to win a primary. It behooves the Massachusetts delegation and the entire New England delegation to fight for more equitable funding for mass transit in upcoming federal transportation bills. Each state has transit plans that desperately need building, and each state is in an economic quagmire. The economic impact of a fully functioning mass transit system has to be the way forward for the region. Now is not the time to declare that all hope is lost.

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Mass. takes baby step forward on South Coast rail

Scary city hall

Fall River City Hall photo by twentysixcats from Flickr

PBN reported yesterday about Massachusetts moving forward on environmental review of three proposals for transit options between Boston and Fall River and New Bedford.

  • Commuter rail through Attleboro: Fall River and New Bedford would gain access to South Station via a new bypass track through Norton and Attleboro to the Northeast Corridor. The study will evaluate both electric and diesel trains.
  • Commuter rail through Stoughton, the state’s preferred route: Fall River and New Bedford would gain service to South Station via a new link through Stoughton; an option might extend service to the Whittenton section of Taunton. Electric and diesel options will be evaluated.
  • Rapid bus: Fall River, New Bedford and Taunton would gain access to Boston via a dedicated, mostly-reversible bus lane that would be constructed along Route 24 and Interstate 93 / 128. The proposed bus service also would use the existing I-93 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) “zipper” lane, and for a short portion of its trip, would travel through mixed traffic.

The option to route trains to Fall River and New Bedford via the Middleborough/Lakeville line seems to have been dropped.

The Stoughton option is the preferred and would likely provide the most direct and fastest service between the two South Coast cities and Boston. The Stoughton alternative faces stiff opposition from some towns along the route, most notably Easton. There are also environmental groups concerned about reactivating existing rail lines through sensitive wetlands.

The Attleboro alternative is potentially interesting in the future for connecting the South Coast to Providence. Though Route 195 is most direct, the Attleboro alignment would open the possibility of having service from Providence to New Bedford and/or Fall River. Service along the Attleboro alignment could also run from Providence, through Taunton and on to Middleborough, Buzzards Bay, and the Cape.

The third option, “rapid bus” is a non-starter in my eyes. First, a train can transport far more passengers than a bus or collection of buses. Secondly, even if fully built out, part of the “rapid bus” route would run in mixed traffic on clogged local highways. Third, the cost of building special lanes on Route 195, 24, and 93 would be better spent on rail infrastructure. If the “rapid bus” option was chosen, surely in 20 years the Commonwealth would again be discussing rail.

Now, the bus option actually could start running now as it will still be some years before trains depart from New Bedford and Fall River. Get bus services running now to build a passenger base that can be transitioned to the trains when they come online. I favor this for Rhode Island too. We should be running coaches from Quonset and Wickford through the airport and into Providence and Attleboro, creating the service that will eventually become the South County Commuter Rail.

Another thing to keep in mind from the Rhode Island perspective when it comes to South Coast rail is Newport. Plans are afoot to run a rail shuttle on Aquidneck Island. The Sakonnet River rail bridge has been removed, meaning that any island rail service will have to stay on the island. However, bridges can be rebuilt and the rail line runs right into Battleship Cove, where the Fall River Commuter Rail station is proposed. A Newport shuttle could provide commuter services for people from the island to transfer to the T in Fall River. It can also be used for tourist transit. Have Newport visitors leave their cars in Fall River (maybe visit Battleship Cove), then jump on a shuttle to Newport. Visitors from Boston could take the T to Fall River to hop on the island shuttle.

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