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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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