Greater City Providence

Providence’s Stimulus Wish List

logo_us_confBack in December, the US Conference of Mayors put together a “ready to go,” or “shovel ready” list of jobs and infrastructure projects. Some of the recommendations were widely reported in the media, but Frankie at the PVD Urbanplanet forum just recently posted the link for the full list of recommendations for RI, and it makes for interesting reading. If nothing else, it’s a look at what priorities the Mayor and regional leaders have placed atop their agendas.

Below are the items that I felt were most interesting from a transportation standpoint, followed by their estimated costs and the number of jobs they would generate:

Streetcar System
$20,000,000, 400 jobs

ITS Development (including Customer Information Screens, passenger info software, transit kiosks for ticket sales, bus stop database, etc.)
$4,000,000, 15 jobs

Service Expansion on Urban Routes (56, 20, 11, 99) and additional suburban Park n’ Ride Lots
$3,000,000, 30 jobs

Capital Improvements to Kennedy Plaza/RIPTA hubs – bus shelters, renovations, etc
$1,000,000, 40 jobs

Downtown Circulator
$1,500,000, 150 jobs

1000-Space structured parking facility to serve Garrahy Judicial Complex and the relocation of the Brown University Medical Education Center
$47,000,000, 206 jobs

Amtrak – Parking Facility Renovation
$2,000,000, 80 jobs

Amtrak – Rehabilitation of Train Station
$20,000,000, 200 jobs

Streets and Sidewalks:
Repave Branch Ave. from N. Main to Rt. 146
$1,000,000, 40 jobs

Reconfiguration of Emmett Square
$2,500,000, 45 jobs

Repave Hope Street from Blackstone Blvd. to 5th Street and from Lloyd Ave. to Wickenden St.
$1,250,000, 50 jobs

Paving and arterial signals on Broadway
$1,800,000, 72 jobs

Westminster Street – sidewalks, paving and street lighting
$4,000,000, 160 jobs

Sidewalk repairs – 18 miles replaced (Could be $10M per year for next 10 years)
$10,000,000, 200 jobs

The biggest surprise to me is the linking of Brown’s Medical School with the Garrahy Courthouse parking garage. Huh… Discuss what you think of this list in the comments section.

Bret Ancowitz


  • Very few of those jobs are permanent, and many of them wouldn’t even be RI jobs, but probably out of state contractors with the ability to take on such big projects. So I think the jobs thing is a bit of a red herring.

  • The long term beneifts in investing in transportation are significant. The construction jobs aside, there is still operational and maintenance jobs associated with them. The real wild-card is the abililty for an enhanced transporation system to keep, create, and/or attract area jobs to Providence and RI. While difficult to assign any jobs to this investment over the next XX years, the alternative is that things continue to deteriorate or even fall-apart with absolutely no other way to pay for the upkeep and improvements.

    A perfect example is the now iconic Providence AMTRAK Station escalator…

  • I agree, Mental, but I just think that there are better arguments to be made for spending on transportation infrastructure than how many jobs will be “created” in making the necessary upgrades. Your point that enhanced transportation can bring long term businesses and jobs (and property tax and new residents etc) is a much better example than what the Council of Mayors sees as “job creation,” and therefore I am unwilling to jump on the C.O.M bandwagon because I worry they have no idea how to see a bigger picture.

  • Few things I think when looking at that list:

    1. What will the follow through be? Yes, streets need repaving and someone will get paid for the short duration of that work, but what are we going to do when the streets need to be repaved again? The city should be able to repave streets without a federal bailout. I see the bailout as being used for big projects beyond the current scope of what the city should be doing as a matter of course. We should have a plan of action for repaving and funding the repaving of city streets on a regular basis as needed, not just at election time and not just when there is a federal bailout. (and how could Dean Street not be listed as one of the streets to be repaved?!?!??!??!????!?!?!)

    2. $20million gets us a streetcar system that employes FOUR HUNDRED people? Really? Can someone explain that to me? And can someone explain how it is “shovel ready?” I’m all about a streetcar system, but wouldn’t we need like 500 public meetings before we start shoveling a streetcar system? I’m not sure that there has been one meeting on this.

    3. $20million to rehabilitate the train station? The station was built in 1986. Are we planning to spend $20million every 20 years to “rehabilitate” this building or will we have a plan (and funding formula) in place to maintain it so it doesn’t fall to pieces again in 5 years?

  • Ah yes, that makes sense. I hope there is ice cream like at the first charrette meeting at the Casino.

  • I don’t know, but those ‘number of jobs’ figures look totally out-of-line with reality.

    Repaving Hope Street might cost a lot (though I really doubt it would be 1.25 -million-, but it should take about a week, so I don’t see how it’s going to ‘create’ 50 jobs.

    Also, a parking garage for $47,000/space?! That would mean that it would have to be fully-occupied every single work day at $15/day for -twelve years- before it turned profitable.

    I don’t think this plan is actually going to work, it’s not like any of the jobs created (except maybe those ITS jobs) would replace the kind we’re losing in the economy. I just don’t think you can switch people over from ‘account manager’ to ‘street paver’. This would just be lots of overtime for DPW and state workers. I can just see three people paving, and 47 holding ‘slow’ signs on Hope Street already.

    I just had a nice discussion with co-workers. I asked them what they would -personally- pay to have the economy ‘fixed’. Most people said they would pay between $250 and $500. 900 billion dollars equals $6000 for every person who files a tax return. As nice as it is to have a wish list, it’s really not ‘worth it’ to have the federal government to go that far into debt to fix something that the states should have been doing for the last decade.

    Also, don’t we keep borrowing tens of millions every few years, with matching federal funds (check the last ten years of state referenda)to pump into Rhode Island’s infrastructure? If what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked, why are we going to keep doing it?

  • I’d simply like to clarify that I don’t really think anything on that list is great in terms of the ‘stimulus wish list’ except the transit and Amtrak sections.

    We can talk about how we shouldn’t NEED to fix a 23 year old train station, but lets face it – it’s owned and operated by AMTRAK – the same entity that makes the annual RIPTA budget crisis look like falling short a quarter for a pak of gum at Xtra-mart. We should get that money and get those improvements now, or we might not ever get it. The transit money is a key investment in what many of us want for the city and state – a better SYSTEM.

    The street repaving projects are already planned for and maybe even budgeted for, but make the list because they are, well, already planned (shovel ready). Those will now be paid for by the stimulus money, which may or may not free up other budgeted money for other things (dare I assume our elected officials will do the right with that freed up money – probably not in all cases).

  • dare I assume our elected officials will do the right with that freed up money

    I hate to be so cynical, really I do, but I’m picturing not only money freed up by stimulus funds, but the stimulus funds themselves ending up in some city worker’s back yard.

    Certainly however it is spent, we can’t say no to money from the feds. What I’d really like to see though is some systemic changes to how things get done around here. As it is now, I see us getting a few streets paved, maybe a few buses for RIPTA, and then next year we’ll be right back where we are now. RIPTA will be in crisis and the streets that weren’t paved with stimulus money will still be unpaved.

  • If you are wondering why the Providence Amtrak station doesnt need repairs, you probably haven’t visited it in many years.

    $47,000 per parking space is normal for underground and many structured parking garages… talk about the high cost of free parking.

  • The question isn’t why the station needs renovation, we’ve been there, we’ve seen that it is falling down. The question is how could we have let a 23 year old building fall into such a state of disrepair that it needs $20 million in renovations? That is despicable.

  • “The question is how could we have let a 23 year old building fall into such a state of disrepair that it needs $20 million in renovations?”

    Because “WE” is really AMTRAK, who has proven to have management shortcomings. Does the city have any responsibility for the facility or is it all on Amtrak??

    “That is despicable”

    Either way, yes it is, very much so.

  • It is not worth fixing up the Amtrak station. It will have to be replaced anyway with a bilevel design: Streetcars above, commuter rail, Amtrak below.

  • I agree entirely Andrew. The Amtrak station should wait until the streetcar proposal is ready. Also, interstate buses should be moved out of Kennedy Plaza in my opinion. The station needs a major redesign to accommodate other modes.

    I should write up a REBOOT post about my thoughts.

  • Jef – I’m unsure about the funding responsibility with regards to the city versus Amtrak as it relates to the station. I am leaning more and more towards the 20M being part of the streetcar system as it relates to the station. Maybe this IS the money needed to incorporate the streetcar line at the station area/site? That would leave another 20M just for the line itself. There is also 2M for the station garage, which I’m almost 100% sure is part of AMTRAK’s responsibility, yet that is included in the city’s wish list.

    OR – maybe the city is simply trying to secure funding to fix the station up themselves?

    Either way, I say get the money since if we don’t some other city/state will and we’ll never see that money otherwise.

    I wish we could find out more about these proposals!

  • “I wish we could find out more about these proposals!”

    Me too. The Mayor has been YouTube-ing lately, maybe he can YouTube about his transit plans.

  • It would be much more useful to understand what their plans are, so transit backers like myself can support, rather than speculate on what they MIGHT be planning.

    I suppose regardless of what and why, getting that money spent on transit-related stuff in RI is really the important thing.

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