Early next year North Kingstown residents will no longer have to fight their way through lines of traffic and highway pollution to reach East Coast metropolitan destinations, said local and state legislators on Friday afternoon as they celebrated National Train Day and showcased the progress of Rhode Island’s latest green transportation undertaking.
Wickford Junction will be a new commuter rail hub, offering residents rides to Providence for just $5.50 round trip as well as round-trip service to Boston at a cost of $18.
Last August the state Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the state Public Turnpike Authority began construction of a new commuter rail line that would connect southern Rhode Island to Warwick, Providence, Boston and beyond. To date the project stands to be ready for completion in less than a year. According to Michael Lewis, DOT director, 89 percent of the platform piers are in place, 15 percent of the 1,100-spave parking garage’s precast pieces are erected and 100 percent of the garage’s foundation is completed.
“We can’t build our way out of highway congestion,” said Lewis as he welcomed local politicians and reporters. “This country needs to recognize the need for alternative ways of transportation and build upon what it already has.”
To combat increasing highway congestion and offer Rhode Islanders a reliable, safe and inexpensive transportation alternative, said Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, the commuter train service that has connected Providence to Boston for more than 20 years will soon extend to North Kingstown.
The $52 million project that finished phase one last December with the extension of the commuter rail service to T.F. Green International Airport wil open coastal Rhode Island for greater economic development as well as contribute to the state’s green public transportation initiatives, according to Chafee.
“When the Wickford Junction Train Station opens early next year, commuters will have a green traffic-free alternative,” said Chafee.
Initially, 10 arrivals and 10 departures will pass through the station on each weekday and a new public transit plan launched by RIPTA will link the multi-modal appeal of Warwick’s station to North Kingstown.
“From our perspective, because we have to serve, my promise in the state of Rhode Island is that wherever a person needs to get to, RIPTA will be there to help facilitate that point,” said Charles Odimgbe, chief executive officer to RIPTA.
Both Lewis and Odimgbe pledged that as with time and as ridership increased service would also increase and improve, with an ultimate goal of connecting the state through public means of inter-modal transportation – be that train, bus, car or plane.
“We are getting back to the future,” said Chafee.