City set to re-apply for TIGER grant to fund streetcar project

The city this spring will once again apply for a federal transportation grant to fund a new streetcar system between Upper South Providence and College Hill, Providence officials said Friday. More

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City set to re-apply for TIGER grant to fund streetcar project

COURTESY KLOPPER MARTIN DESIGN GROUP AND PROVIDENCE PLANNING DEPARTMENT
STREETCARS EMERGE from the East Side bus tunnel at the intersection of Fones Alley and Thayer Street on College Hill in this conception of what the potential streetcar project would mean in Providence.
Posted 3/14/14

(Updated, March 31, 11:17 a.m.)

PROVIDENCE – The city this spring will once again apply for a federal transportation grant to fund a new streetcar system between Upper South Providence and College Hill, Providence officials said Friday.

This year the U.S. Department of Transportation has been authorized to award $600 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants toward local transportation projects, which need to apply by April 28. In last year’s round of grants, Rhode Island won $10 million for the Apponaug Circulator project in Warwick.

Like last year, the city hopes to combine a federal grant with proceeds of Tax Increment Financing bonds and state funds to pay for the streetcar, which is estimated to cost $114.4 million. TIF bonds would be repaid through a portion of new tax revenue from development or improvement to property within a district along the streetcar route.

To improve the city’s prospects of winning the grant, Providence Director of Long Range Planning Bonnie Nickerson said planners intend to present a TIF ordinance, including a district map, to the City Council for a sense of support this spring. The ordinance would only go for approval if the city wins the TIGER grant, she said.

The TIF bonds would make up 47 percent of the project’s funding, the TIGER grant 34 percent and state funds the remainder.

In most respects, this year’s streetcar plan will be the same as last year’s Nickerson said, with an identical route terminating at one end on Thayer Street and passing through the East Side bus tunnel before crossing Kennedy Plaza to Washington Street and turning south through the Jewelry District to Rhode Island Hospital.

Two potential changes the city is considering are creating a spur to connect Kennedy Plaza with the Providence train station, and providing a dedicated streetcar lane through Kennedy Plaza, Nickerson said.

The city is not, however, considering any additional dedicated lanes on other parts of the route, such as on Washington Street or Empire Street, to free the streetcar from automobile traffic, Nickerson said. Carving out a dedicated lane for the streetcar, which would increase its speed, would require the elimination of current car travel or parking lanes.

“In other cities it works well in the [automobile] right of way, and we think it can function just fine here,” Nickerson said. “We don’t want the streetcar to be in conflict with parking or auto travel. It is meant to be an enhancement without changing auto travel.”

The updated streetcar route is 2.5 miles long with 12 stops and will take 15 minutes to complete one way. Frequency is estimated at 12 minutes during peak hours and between 15 and 20 minutes off-peak.

To see the latest city plans for a streetcar, CLICK HERE.

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