Two priority rail station projects are moving forward in Providence and Pawtucket/Central Falls, R.I., both with “built-in ridership in densely populated areas,” says the Rhode Island Dept. of Transportation spokesman Charles St. Martin.

Late last month, RIDOT announced it is accepting proposals to design and build Rhode Island's newest commuter rail station, strategically located near the Pawtucket-Central Falls line in Pawtucket, north of Providence.

The $40 million Pawtucket-Central Falls Commuter Rail Station would serve a built-in ridership that lacks transit choices, according to a RIDOT statement on its website. Informal surveys by RIDOT revealed that many area residents are driving to nearby commuter rail stations in Attleboro and South Attleboro, Mass. to commute to work in Boston.

“Both communities [Pawtucket and Central Falls] are contributing a combined $3 million of the total cost,” St. Martin says. “There are a lot of mill structures around the area and an old train station over the tracks that was in service long ago. In the empty square footage of those buildings, there is lots of opportunity for transit-oriented development.” 

RIDOT expects to award a design-build contract in early summer, according to the statement. This approach will shorten the overall timeframe to design and build the station, breaking ground in late 2017 and opening in late 2019, the statement said.

The station will afford direct connection via Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trains to Providence, T.F. Green and Wickford Junction stations in Rhode Island, as well as numerous stops on route to South Station in Boston, the statement said. 

Ridership studies show this station will attract a high level of users, with an estimated 519 daily boardings, the statement said. To further increase transit connectivity, a future Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus hub will be built separately through a $7 million Federal Transit Administration grant.

The project is funded largely through the efforts of Rhode Island's Congressional Delegation to secure $13.1 million through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program. 

Providence Intermodal Transit Center project

To advance the ambitious Providence Intermodal Transit Center, the RIDOT is "currently finalizing request for proposals expected by March for selecting a P3 partner,” St. Martin says. “It’s an exciting project.”

While St. Martin did not reveal a cost for the project, The Providence Journal in a Jan. 27 article reported, “The state is actively pursuing a public-private partnership that could exceed $100 million in value, featuring new construction of private development that feeds off the tens of thousands of commuters and visitors expected to use the transit center.

RIDOT intends to issue requests for proposals in late winter, award a contract for the project in late summer and start construction next fall, St. Martin says.

In late October, RIDOT received proposals from real estate firms Boston Development Collaborative; Boston Properties Limited Partnership; Marsella Development Corporation; and Redgate Capital Partners in response to a request for qualifications for the construction of the transit center, RIDOT said in a statement. The project is designed to integrate Amtrak and MBTA service with Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and regional bus service. 

The proposed transit center will be located close to the existing Providence Station, and will reunite bus and train service while providing supporting transit-oriented development expected to increase ridership, the statement said. Currently, bus service in Providence is centered at Kennedy Plaza, about a quarter mile away from the train station.

“The movement of buses to Providence Station was envisioned back in 2014 with voter approval of a $35 million bond for transit hubs,” the statement said.

Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state in the country, yet its transit utilization is well below the national average, RIDOT stated. “A new transit hub in Providence would help the state ‘connect the dots’ with its transportation system and make it easier and more convenient for people to use transit.”