PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Transportation advocates and RIPTA riders are voicing their concerns over a controversial plan to create an underground bus tunnel at Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence.
RI Transit Riders stood together Thursday against the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s (RIDOT) new proposal.
“It’s a misuse of the funds,” Patricia Raub said.
RIDOT is still trying to determine the best way to spend $35 million that voters asked the agency to use to rebuild city transit locations.
But transit riders tell Eyewitness News the plan is not what they had in mind.
Earlier this month, RIDOT unveiled a new approach to improve transit safety and congestion concerns in the city. The plan would create several hubs around Providence instead of just one main hub at Kennedy Plaza.
In addition, the bus routes in Kennedy Plaza would be relocated underground, allowing pedestrians to walk around without bus traffic.
“It’s a lot of money to spend on something that’s not going to have a positive impact on transit,” John Flaherty said
Flaherty said RI Transit Riders is against the proposal because they believe it will make busing more complicated and time-consuming.
“We have this one change now to get it right and we can’t be diverted by something that is not going to have a good impact on transit,” Flaherty added.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said the state values the feedback from the community, especially for projects as big as this one.
“It’s very early in the process,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do to make it easier for people to commute to work by bus, and so that’s what this new plan is designed to do.”
In a statement to Eyewitness News, RIDOT defended the proposal, adding that their main goal is to keep the project on time and on budget: “If the pedestrian overpass presents a challenge to RIDOT’s $35 million bus hub project budget or schedule, or if additional engineering analysis presents any unforeseen conditions (i.e. groundwater, soils, utilities) that make it unfeasible, then the pedestrian overpass will be eliminated from the project.”
A spokesperson for RIDOT said the agency still plans to put the proposal out for bidders in the fall, though members of RI Transit Riders believe that’s too soon.