Greater City Providence

Like: Chafee to pursue Florida’s rejected high speed rail funds

Amtrak Acela arriving in Providence

Photo (cc) Michael Dietsch

featured-likeProJo reports that Governor Chafee’s administration will pursue part of the $2.4 billion in high speed rail funding that Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected.

“The state is encouraged by this funding opportunity,” [Chafee spokesman Christian] Vareika said in a statement. “The state is currently examining potential projects and will be working closely with its New England partners to evaluate the potential benefits of a regional approach.”

Did he say “regional approach?” Yum.

The administration has until April 4th to submit a proposal for funding to the Federal Government.

So, what should we do with high speed rail money (locally or regionally) assuming we get some? I vote renovate and expand Providence Station with an eye toward increased usage and intermodal connections to the future Core Connector.

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.


  • What’s with this quote? “LaHood informed the senator this week that he has designated the “Northeast Corridor” as the eleventh and final corridor to qualify for federal high-speed rail money.”
    Really? The eleventh? I’ll be honest, this is exactly why private sector motives make more sense than public sector motives. The Northeast Corridor is profitable, dense, and has pent up demand for expansion, and that isn’t the first corridor to qualify for money? If I was running Amtrak as a business that needed to make money to stay alive, the Northeast Corridor would ALREADY have high speed rail, there’s demand for it. If the government can’t satisfy the market demands, they should sell off the corridor to a private company, or two.

  • Chafee’s announcement besides addressing possible upgrades to the Northeast Corridor, might offer an opportunity to develop commuter rail between Providence, Fall River, and New Bedford and the suburbs that separate them. The Providence/New Bedford metropolitan area is more than just Rhode Island with its 1.6 million residents who are presently not served by an interconnecting transit system. Service could extend to the Cape and to Warwick for an airport connection.

    Where there is an existing rail corridor that connects Cape Cod to Providence, there is no such corridor that exists between Providence, Fall River, and New Bedford. A possible route could follow the median of route 195 and shift to the East Side Rail Tunnel to access Downtown Providence and perhaps meander through parts of Fall River and New Bedford.

    Other regional connections could be developed between Providence and Worcester along the P&W rail line. The Shoreline East route that starts in New Haven could be extended to Providence that would allow people along entire the route to reach jobs in either New Haven or Providence. Also, it might be worth analyzing a Providence to Hartford connection .

    Perhaps Chafee should invite the neighboring Governors and Mayors to a regional transit summit to discuss these possibilities and develop strategies to obtain some of the federal funds that have been abandoned by Florida and other states.

    They could look at developing an Interstate Regional Transit Authority similar to the Port Authority of NY & NJ or the MTA in the New York area.

    The Southeastern New England cities that include Providence, Fall River, and New Bedford have been economically challenged for years, which in part is due to transit disconnectedness. Chafee’s idea to capture languishing federal rail transit funds for upgraded or new service could begin to reverse this historic trend.

    Congressional representatives will only act on this kind of regional initiative, if there is strong local political support. Until now a Southeastern New England regional transit initiative has been off the radar. With Chafee’s announcement a regional approach is now possible.

  • The full article in today’s Journal says that the Taveras administration has asked the Governor’s office to seek Florida funds to address issues at the Providence train station, specifically deficiencies in the parking garage.

    State DOT officials said in late 2009 that the parking garage, which has about 360 spaces, has suffered structural damage due to poor design and lack of maintenance. The agency had said it might cost as much as $10 million to avoid closure of the facility.

  • This kills me. If the parking fees are not enough to pay to maintain the garage why is it there at all?

    I have been told it will be a difficult, costly project to install a structure over the tracks and platforms that can support an extension of Exchange Place to Gaspee St. That would become the best route for most buses and streetcars to points north, to the benefit thousands per day, not 360. Who knows, maybe fewer people would feel the need to drive to the train station.

  • So a privately owned garage falls into disrepair, and instead of demanding accountability from its owner to provide proper upkeep, Uncle Sam lets him off the hook. Thereby sacrificing the opportunity of using the money to invest in more value added uses to improve the station. Sorry, I know life ain’t fair, but how can people view their government as credible when they’re constantly making decisions that counteract common sense?

  • Who is responsible for what?

    The private garage sits on leased land, the streets and park/plaza above that form the roof of the garage are owned mostly by the city and the roof section nearest the station, the sidewalk and steps from the garage below, is owned by Amtrak. If the design or construction was inferior, go after the designers and the builder.

    If the garage was experiencing water infiltration from above that caused damage, did the garage let the city know in time? Is the city and Amtrak responsible to make the repairs or is it the garage owner or both?

    If the city and Amtrak are responsible, it might reasonable that they apply for federal funds to make the repairs on a 25 year old government facility.

  • Ok, so I now acknowledge that the issue is more complex, and if I unfairly chastised the owner of the garage, then I apologize. It’s just that before, it seemed more cut and dry that upkeep to a privately owned structure is the responsibility of its private owner.

  • While I see your point in developing a regional approach to transportation, I don’t see why Rhode Island, should it get this money, should be responsible for infrastructure improvements in Massachusetts. The fact that Fall River and New Bedford have been ignored is their problem, not ours. It would basically be throwing money away to our neighboring competition when, frankly, we need it more than they do.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing this money go toward ensuring that if and when high speed rail is built in Rhode Island, it actually stops in Providence. The current plans take the proposed rail through the northwest part of the state, bypassing the city completely, and stopping in Woonsocket. Stupid idea. I say we buy Providence station outright, build the necessary infrastructure, and then sell the entire thing back to Amtrak as a single consolidated asset to solve the maintenance issues.

  • Rhode Island would only get some of the funds. Massachusetts and Connecticut could get some too. All three states would have to make individual applications. The case for a regionalist approach is that there would be more congressional representation to advocate and act as a team to insure that southern New England and not some other region benefits by obtaining the languishing funds.

    Further, as I said before the Providence metro area is more that just Rhode Island. The parochial competitive view that nothing can happen beyond the state line is destructive and has been holding back this metropolitan area and keeping it an economic basket case as compared to other metro areas throughout northeast.

    Examples of successful cross-state metropolitans areas include metro New York/New Jersey/Connecticut and Washington/Baltimore/Virginia. Southern New Hampshire is much more a part of the Boston metro area and that region from Boston to New Hampshire is far better off economically than Providence/Fall River/New Bedford. Much of that is due to cooperation between the two states.

    Why is it so difficult for cooperation to happen between Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut? What I’m proposed is a long overdue change in attitude of cooperation that could benefit the whole Providence metro area, not just Rhode Island.

  • I’m not sure the Southern New Hampshire thing has to do with cooperation between the states, but rather the fact that New Hampshire has no income or sales tax and it’s not a horrible commute from places like Nashua and Derry down to Boston or even to the train station in Haverhill or Lowell. The commuter rail doesn’t actually go into New Hampshire even though Manchester is pretty much equidistant from Boston as Providence. There’s also a better business climate in New Hampshire than there is in RI, which means more companies have offices in southern NH, which makes co-existing in the Boston area and southern NH better.

    I know it’s really not the point, but that’s how it is. I do agree with your point that in the case of rail, we need to work regionally, but I don’t think we should give up money for Fall River and New Bedford to be connected to Boston. We should get them connected by rail to Providence. Same goes for Worcester, Groton/New London/Westerly, and Hartford.

  • ProJo reports that RIDOT is seeking $31 million from the $2.4 billion in funds rejected by Florida for:

    According to the state DOT, the projects it will seek financing for are:

    • $25 million to construct a third track at Kingston Station in South Kingstown. This would allow for bypass of Kingston Station for through trains and provide future capacity for a possible expansion of commuter rail.
    • $3 million for engineering and environmental review funds to allow for future construction of Providence Station improvements aimed at providing congestion relief in a number of ways, chiefly by lifting restrictions on cargo trains.
    • $3 million for engineering and environmental review funds to allow for future construction of T.F. Green Station improvements to allow Amtrak intercity trains to stop there.
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