ARLENE VIOLET – History is about to repeat itself

ARLENE VIOLET – History is about to repeat itself

Amid much fanfare, the Providence Pedestrian Bridge opened this summer. While the politicians were giddy, the originally planned $3 million bridge actually cost the taxpayers a hair under $22 million, despite being a scaled down version. Now, history is about to repeat itself. The price tag on the planned Pawtucket commuter rail station is now pegged at $51 million from an initial cost of $40 million and a shovelful of dirt hasn’t been disturbed yet. This project, too, is supposedly a scaled down version with the elimination of a second set of tracks from the station. But, wait! There’s more!

The project actually could curtail Amtrak’s service on the Northeast corridor. With this proposal to eliminate the second track intercity and express trains couldn’t overtake the trains stopping in Pawtucket, thereby jamming the sole electric rail track like Route 95 at peak time. Nor could the trains turn around in Pawtucket without continuing into Boston anyway. A Rhode Island-only system would never happen. In effect, the whole rationalization for the Pawtucket station was to run a local rail system and establish express rail system between Providence and Boston. This aspiration of Gov. Gina Raimondo to open a Pawtucket station raises an important question: Why?

A stone’s throw away is the South Attleboro station on the border of Pawtucket which now provides parking for commuters traveling into Boston and back. Why would Rhode Island spend this kind of money for a speculative, marginal improvement which, nonetheless, could slow down Amtrak, particularly its Acela service, in the future? The state is on the toe line of another “oops!” moment.

Keep in mind the fiasco of the Wickford Train Station. Hailed as a project that would bring folks into Rhode Island and stimulate economic development, the station is a ghost town. This $44 million project with a 1,100-space parking garage has never seen the ridership touted as a justification for its construction. As noted in the Hummel Report (Providence Journal Aug. 23, 2019) while state leaders projected a ridership of 1,500 passengers a day, in July 2019 it was 657 during the “busy” summer time. The average number of vehicles using the garage is one-quarter of the estimate. For July 2019 there was an average of 302 parked cars, many vehicles of which belonged to URI day hoppers who are shuttled back and forth to the Kingstown campus and not train passengers.

The fact is that Rhode Island political leaders have a serious disease: “Edifice complex.” They cannot rest without constructing something during their tenure with their names on the edifice. Of course, their money isn’t at risk. Each folly carries a price tag for the taxpayers.

Other than pipe dreams and fairy dust rhetoric from state and Pawtucket leaders, no compelling argument has been made for this train station, particularly as presently configured. If they build it they shall come can no longer be the standard by which these projects are selected. So, in 2019, what real evidence exists to substantiate that this station is the economic boon which is projected? Just why isn’t the So. Attleboro station which is seven minutes away, insufficient to promote such growth if this argument holds water? Without solid proof the state is headed for another train wreck.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.

Comments

The reason is simple. To take money away from much needed roads and highway work. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

This article is spot on! Pawtucket is wasting money for a train station when S. Attleboro is minutes away. I agree with your opinion Ms. Violet.

You are entirely correct. The South Attleboro station is minutes way. So is Attleboro and Providence and Mansfield. Easy enough if you have a car.

Good thing everyone who commutes to Boston or Providence has car! We know that everyone has a car especially in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls.

let me guess,,,you do not have a car do you?

Let’s see, how do I get to the Attleboro, South Attleboro, Providence train stations without a car from Pawtucket or Central Falls? There is RIPTA, taxis, ride sharing and walking. Oh wait, RIPTA and GATRA do not have a shared bus stop. Taxis are and ride sharing can be expensive. So that means I take a bus or walk from Pawtucket or Central Falls to Providence. RIPTA has been cutting routes. Walking is a good option in the good weather. Walking to Providence in the winter might be an issue. So a better paying job or attending college from RI in Boston is pretty much out of reach since I may not have a car.

Your ANONYMOUS snarky question regarding a car just demonstrates your lack of compassion and understanding.It is easy to be nasty when you aren't held accountable.

Actually there is a link between RIPTA and GATRA ,Broadway and George Bennett ( Industrial highway) there's a GATRA stop and RIPTA runs a bus right up to the South Attleboro station. Please do research before you comment David thanks