In 1988, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation
(RIDOT) and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
(MBTA) signed the Pilgrim Partnership, dedicating both agencies to developing efficient commuter rail service between Providence, R.I., and Boston. Since then, the number of commuters between both cities has increased from 200 to 2,000 riders per day.
In December 2010, the MBTA’s Providence/Stoughton commuter rail line was extended south of Providence to a new station in Warwick serving T.F. Green Airport. In April, the line was extended further south to the new Wickford Junction train station in North Kingstown. Both stations are part of RIDOT’s South County Rail Project, which extends the Providence commuter rail line 18 miles south of Providence.
Commuters from the Wickford Junction station can now reach Providence in 35 minutes and Boston in less than two hours. Travelers can also journey by rail to T.F. Green Airport and — via a connection to the MBTA’s Silver Line at Boston’s South Station — to Boston Logan International Airport. Last but not least, the new rail service alleviates peak-hour congestion by getting vehicles off the highway, especially in the Route 4/I-95 corridor.
Public Meets Private
The plan to restore train service to North Kingstown coincided with the vision of local developer Bob Cioe, who had opened a major shopping plaza in North Kingstown adjacent to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in 1997 with the long-term plan of making it part of a mixed-use, transit-oriented development. In support of this goal, Cioe’s master development plan reserved the parcel adjacent to the railroad tracks for a commuter rail station and parking garage.
In 2010, site development contractors Manafort Brothers was awarded a contract to design and build a train station on behalf of RIDOT. The result of this public-private partnership is a multimodal facility consisting of a single-side commuter rail platform on a restored siding track; a four-story, 1,100-car parking garage; drop-off/pick-up area for cars and buses; bicycle parking; new roadways, including new access drive off Ten Rod Road (Route 102); storm water management facilities; new utility services; site lighting and new landscaping — all completed in a 20-month period and without budget overruns. The $24.5 million station opened in April during a ceremony attended by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), RIDOT Director Michael Lewis and other dignitaries.