RI seeks $14.5M from feds for new Pawtucket train station

Pawtucket CF train rendering May 2016_304160

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island has taken its biggest step yet toward building a new train station to serve Pawtucket and Central Falls, requesting $14.5 million from the federal government to cover about a third of the project’s cost.

The R.I. Department of Transportation submitted an application at the end of last month to receive funding through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, a competitive grant process that has helped pay for a number of significant Rhode Island projects since its creation in the 2009 stimulus law.

RIDOT Director Peter Alviti argued in the application that building the train station would be “a transformative project.”

“With this TIGER Grant, we will be able to advance design and construction of the Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station and position these communities for development, which has the opportunity to transform the area and provide much needed economic opportunity for local residents,” Alviti wrote.

“The Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station Project offers undeniable equity benefits that strengthen the local economy, provide access to jobs and education and support future transportation investments and development plans,” he continued.

The total estimated cost of the new train station is $40 million. If the TIGER grant is approved, the rest of the money would come largely from other federal funding, along with $3.6 million from the state and $3 million from the two cities. RIDOT says the station could open by early 2020.

According to RIDOT, an environmental review of the project and preliminary engineering work for the train station are expected to be completed by September, and the agency plans to award a $3-million design contract in December. A decision on the federal TIGER application is expected in the fall.

Adding a Pawtucket/Central Falls stop on the MBTA commuter-rail line between Boston and Wickford Junction would fulfill a longstanding goal of local political leaders and transit advocates, who argue the new station would be a catalyst for real-estate development in the surrounding area and provide other economic benefits.

The application estimates 519 riders would board the Providence MBTA line per day at the Pawtucket stop if it gets built, but many of them would switch from the South Attleboro and Providence stops, putting net new ridership at 89 riders per day.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who serves on the money-allocating Senate Appropriations Committee, is a vocal supporter of the TIGER program. He has helped steer about $65 million in TIGER funds to Rhode Island, notably $22.3 million for the Quonset Business Park and $13 million for Providence’s transit system.

Separately on Tuesday, the House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up a bill sponsored by Rep. Carlos Tobon, D-Pawtucket, that would appropriate $10 million to help underwrite the cost of the Pawtucket train station. Tobon proposed a similar bill pegged at $20 million last year.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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