Greater City Providence

Local News & Notes


Proposed South Street Landing parking garage. Rendering by Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc.

I’ve been quite busy offline the last few weeks. Here’s a selection of local stories I’ve been trying to catch myself up on: New MBTA ‘bullet trains’ will get riders from Worcester to Boston in less than an hour

Riding the rails from Worcester to Boston should take less time come May. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Wednesday announced the addition of a non-stop bullet train and two additional express trains on the Worcester/Framingham line.

“This is a game changer,” Polito said, referring to it as a quality of life issue. “For the first time ever, a non-stop train leaves Worcester and arrives in Boston in less than an hour.

Can the Providence line haz ‘bullet trains’ too pleaz?

The Providence Journal Fed-ordered drainage work will cost RIDOT $112 million

Faced with a consent decree requiring it to comply with federal clean water rules, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has budgeted $112 million over the next decade to clean and repair its ailing network of drainage systems around the state.

DOT director Peter Alviti said the state agency plans to annually spend between $6.6 million and $16.8 million on drainage improvements as part of its 10-year strategic plan in a bid to correct years of inaction and reduce the amount of polluted stormwater that flows into Narragansett Bay and other local water bodies from state roads.

Look back to 2013 when Save The Bay highlighted the issue that surface run-off, not sewer overflow was what was most contributing to beach closures that year. RIDOT didn’t even know where it’s run-off was coming from, while we, the Narragansett Bay Commission rate-payers, are paying crazy sewer bills for a giant pipe to hold our poo.

The Providence Journal R.I. to pay $360,000 a year for parking at nursing education center in Providence

The state will pay the owner of South Street Landing $360,000 annually for parking spaces for people using the Nursing Education Center that will be part of the development along the Providence River.


The fees are scheduled to rise to approximately $470,000 annually in the seventh year of the lease, according to J. Vernon Wyman, a URI official. However, the fees will adjust over time to reflect fair market value.

Where the headline says ‘R.I. to pay…’ that actually means we (you and I) will pay. The article does not state what the people actually parking their cars will pay, if anything.

WPRI Brown Univ. kicks off $3B campaign

Brown University has announced the beginning of the largest “comprehensive campaign” in the history of the university.

According to the school, the $3 billion campaign will “support investments in people, innovative education and research, and initiatives in campus infrastructure and student life.”

The campaign is being referred to as “BrownTogether.”

As Ted Nesi pointed out in his Saturday post, this is money largely coming from out-of-state donors being spent in-state. It is a great infusion of cash for our economy. Which I’m sure Brown will point our when the Providence City Council comes looking for more payments in lieu of taxes [see item #2] to help close the City’s projected deficit.

The Providence Journal Timeline pushed back for bridge, parks in Providence’s 195 development

The state Department of Transportation has about $15 million available to build a long-awaited pedestrian bridge and parks on either side of the Providence River, along the former Route 195 path through the city, but bridge construction isn’t expected to start until next summer and parks construction perhaps 18 months later.

Yet, in June 2014, DOT expected to put the bridge project out to bid in December 2014. The bridge would be completed by spring 2016, and parks by fall 2016, DOT then told the commission.

Bridge designs are 90 percent complete, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said Wednesday. That’s how far along designs were this time last year, when Bonnie Nickerson, now city planning director, told the commission the project was “ready to go out to bid” after four years of design work.

Does this remind anyone of any other RIDOT bridge project?

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.


  • Why would you have a bullet train go to the MBTA’s third busiest station (or sometimes fourth), when it’s not located in the Commonwealth?

  • Laughter is the appropriate response when someone tries to call a train that takes an hour to go 50 miles a BULLET.

    And cheer up, Jef! By those standards, we haz bullet train to Boston! Amtrak gets there in 42 minutes. Or you can pay $56 for the Acela and get there in 41!

  • Giant pipe indeed. Runoff is the reason for big spending by the Narragansett Bay Commission, but the rates still do not consider how much impermeable surface is on your property.

    The water in the bay was very noticeably cleaner last summer.

  • There should be a 30 minute (or less) Providence to Boston express train, at least every two hours, and running past 11:59PM (current last train to Providence from South Station). I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been stranded in Boston because the last commuter rail leaves at an obnoxiously early time. What about all the service industry workers that work in Boston but would prefer to pay less in rent and travel in?

    By adding a direct, fast connection between PVD and BOS, the prospects for converting empty office space into apartments, or build new apartments buildings altogether in the downtown core begins to brighten even more. There are many people, I’d guess thousands, that would live in Providence and commute to Boston for work or play, if the connection was a reliable 30 minutes.

    All the new units that are being built in the South End of Boston that rent starting at near $2,400/mo, the Providence market could offer an alternative that is more competitively priced. Without a faster and more frequent connection, this would never happen. The Superman Building alone could be converted to serve the first City to City express commuters, and that dumps 600+ people directly in the downtown core. The economic multipliers created by adding residents will easily pay any subsidies that the State would have to pay to get this done. Additionally, more residents, more culture, and less brain drain should prop up the job (and office real estate) markets in Providence. The creative culture of Providence, connected to Boston by an express train, would likely spark interest in design firms, arts and sciences, architecture, academia, etc. to open satellite offices, allow tele-commuting, or even relocate entirely.

    If downtown is going to be a self-sustaining neighborhood, more residents have to move here and more units need to be built — neither of these will happen if we don’t embrace mobility and make it easier for the movement of people and ideas.

  • How do you propose a train that takes less than 30 minutes into Boston when it takes Acela Express 41 minutes to get from Providence to Back Bay? And every two hours – how would that work and still allow existing MBTA and Amtrak service to operate?

    The Worcester line has the added benefit of the MBTA owning it. I don’t see Amtrak allowing MBTA to poach its riders with a Providence to Boston super-express service on its right of way.

  • They need to identify bottlenecks on the 40 miles of track between Providence and Back Bay. There are a few things that they can focus on to create a better link.

    The current northeast corridor route is very inefficient leading up to Providence all the way to East Junction. When leaving Providence, the current route takes a strong easterly track to East Junction and then a straight line towards Canton Junction (near Route 128 Amtrak stop). The Amtrak currently stops at Route 128, so eliminating that shaves some time for a nonstop City to City express train. The Route 128 stop is directly north of the Canton Junction MBTA stop that requires trains to slow because of a curve.

    If there was an East Providence/East Side of Providence train station, there would legit be a straight line from East Providence all the way to Canton (via East Junction). This would be the longest, (fairly) straight away north of New Jersey. The train probably can’t go as fast as it can in Western RI, but it will be able to go much faster than it currently has to slow to in order to navigate the curves leaving Providence, at West River, Broad Street, and the sharpest High Street (Central Falls) curve.

    Clearly, the logistical challenges (and costs) of opening a new Providence/East Side/E.P. train station is a problem. However, if the streetcar is really going to become a reality, extending the streetcar from Providence Station to another auxillary station for express service, and even maybe a Fall River/New Bedford link down the road (transfers would probably have to happen in Attleboro unless new rail was laid), would not be difficult, and it would be a huge asset. The right of way for the streetcar could just be the Henderson bridge which has very little traffic even during rush hour.

    As far as poaching customers and who would offer this service, I don’t know. The Amtrak northeast regional and the Amtrak Acela are too expensive for most people to do the commute twice daily. I don’t know if this is true, but less stops certainly should mean less wear and tear on equipment, right? I don’t know if less stops also means less total employees, but it could be the case. Regardless, a consistent short haul commuter demographic would be a good revenue source for Amtrak if they can make the cost structure work. There are other values that come with this service, such as generating more taxes in Providence, so maybe a subsidy per ticket could help make it work. I wouldn’t open any more RI station stops until there was a plan to better connect to our neighbors (and keep graduates here), I don’t think the current situation is acceptable. 40 miles is not a distance that should stop workers from commuting, and right now it is. Providence’s appeal improves substantially when people can more easily move between the two cities.

  • The best way to speed up PVD > BOS service is electrification. Electric locomotives are lighter and take less time to slow down for stops and get back up to speed. Add high platforms to all stations and you shave off more minutes.

    There is support coming together up in Boston for the North-South rail link connecting North and South Stations, former governor’s Weld and Dukakis are pushing hard. It is still in the pipe dream phase, but if it were ever to happen, there would need to be commuter rail electrification, we couldn’t send diesels through that new tunnel.

    The NEC is already electrified, MBTA just has not invested in electric locomotives and does not plan to until more lines are electrified by others (i.e. BOS > WOR by Amtrak). Theoretically, RI could ask to amend the agreement we have with Mass. and we could buy and maintain electric locomotives for the line, but that seems to be more of a pipe dream than the North-South rail link at this point.

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