Construction at Wickford Junction Plaza is ahead of schedule, tracks are being laid and trains could be rolling into North Kingstown as early as April 1.
The bulk of the $22-million project being built by Manafort Brothers Inc. of Plainfield, Conn., should be done by the end of this year, according to Robert Cioe, owner of Wickford Junction on Ten Rod Road. Workers are applying asphalt inside the shopping center adjacent to the new station and landscapers have begun their work on the property. Amtrak is ahead of schedule laying track into the station, he said, raising hopes the project could wrap up as much as a month sooner than expected.
"We were originally talking April 30, so we're right where we need to be," Cioe said. "We're optimistic everything is going to fall into place."
The Rhode Island Department of Transtportation has completed upgrades to Route 102 leading into Wickford Junction, Cioe said. Improvements include widening the station side of Route 102 between the railroad overpass and the Wickford Junction entrance, lengthening the left-turn lane into Wickford Plaza for eastbound traffic and updating traffic lights. Amtrak is also working on traffic lights and installing software to control train signals – work that should be completed by the end of January.
The handicap-accessible station boasts a 450-foot platform and a three-story, 1,100-space parking garage with heated and cooled restrooms and waiting space. The shopping center includes a Wal-Mart, which plans to add a full supermarket, Cioe said, and other smaller retailers, as well as a hair salon. There is also about 8,000 square feet of available retail space. While no tenants have yet been identified, Cioe said he's hopeful the space will fill up once the trains start running.
"There's just a lack of confidence in the economy right now. No one knows what's going to happen," Cioe said. "But we have a lot of positives going for us. I think we'll be ahead of the curve when things start to turn around. We will certainly be positioned better than other shopping centers."
When completed, Wickford Junction will be the southernmost stop of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail. RIDOT projects as many as 1,500 riders will travel from Wickford Junction, making stops at T.F. Green Airport, Providence and Boston. A trip to Providence should take about 20 minutes.
RIDOT anticipates there could be a maximum of 10 round trips a day through Wickford, according to spokesman Bryan Lucier. The schedule — and number of round trips — is still under consideration, and won't be finalized until early next year, he said.
Cioe expects tickets will be sold online and from machines at the station. Travelers will pay $2.75 each way to Providence and a little less to the airport. A ticket to Boston will cost $9. Commuters can park in the three-story garage for $4 a day, and bike racks will also be available. Parking for commuters will be strictly prohibited at the Wickford Junction businesses.