Greater City Providence

Northern Rhode Island Transportation

Last week I posted a proposal for an intrastate rail line from Woonsocket to Quonset Point. This is not a new idea and talk about bringing trains back to Woonsocket has been going on for some time.

Earlier this week there was a Congressional Breakfast in Woonsocket attended by more than 100 people, with the topic being transportation in the northern part of the state. The Valley Breeze has a report on the breakfast. Above is a video prepared by the Pawtucket Foundation that was presented at the breakfast.

Thomas Mann, Executive Director of The Pawtucket Foundation presented a video that outlined four major points:

  1. Demonstrate the regional significance of the Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Stop project. Pawtucket has secured $360,000 and the State of RI has appropriated $40,000 as the local match to access a $1.96M earmark for preliminary engineering and NEPA permitting.
  2. Implement a more in-depth regional feasibility analysis for an intra-state commuter rail proposal to create service from Woonsocket, through the Blackstone Valley to Providence and T.F. Green Airport
  3. Consider economic development as a criterion for transportation infrastructure investments. Focus transit funding to coincide with transit oriented development.
  4. Connect the Blackstone Valley Bike Path to the East Bay Bike Path. Expedite design and funding to complete the Blackstone Valley Bike Path.

Those in attendance were in agreement that a commuter rail line connecting northern RI to T.F. Green and points south is not only doable, but vital. The Breeze quotes Sen. Reed as saying that commuter rail, “has to be pursued vigorously.”

So what are the stumbling blocks. One is Amtrak, getting agreements to share the rails, but also agreements on liability. The Conant Street bridge in Pawtucket near the location of that city’s proposed commuter rail station remains closed due to not being able to come to agreement with Amtrak over liability issues in regards to repairing the bridge. The other issue, as always, money. While the rails are there, they will need slight upgrades, also stations will need to be built, rolling stock bought, conductors, engineers, and mechanics hired, all cost money of course. And if you haven’t heard, Rhode Island is lacking in the money department of late. Everyone seems to be in agreement though, that money invested in transit is a good investment for Rhode Island. Our limited land and dense population coupled with the existing infrastructure make transit a key tool to rebuild our economy.

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.


  • It seems to me that RIPTA (And DOT) are putting their weight into creating RI’s own commuter rail. Kind of makes sense when you think about it, just have the system go into South Attleboro to meet up with MBTA, and a little further south to meetup with CT Transit and you’re good to go.

  • Even if RI had its own commuter rail, it would still make sense to have the T come down through Providence (or RIrail go straight to Boston – if it could be worked out legally). I would imagine that a transfer at S. Attleboro for MBTA service to Boston would detract from ridership.

  • I am responding to the video with an number of different points. I like the video and I use RIPTA when visiting Rhode Island.

    Bus Rapid Transit(service that the MBTA is using with the Silver Line): The idea of having bus rapid transit lines between Downtown Providence & Downtown Pawtucket is a good idea, but lets not limit it to between Downtown Providence & Downtown Pawtucket. The Providence Link Trolley Bus Service could be a great Trolley Bus Rapid Transit Line in the City of Providence. The neighboring Southeastern & Greater Attleboro-Taunton Rerional Transit Authorities should also look into having Commuter Bus Rapid Transit Lines from Fall River, Taunton & Attleboro.

    Intra-State Commuter Rail: Again the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority should be involved.

    CT Transit: Is really a State Bus System for the State of Connecticut, under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

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