PAWTUCKET – A long-discussed plan to expand passenger rail service to Pawtucket and Central Falls got a boost on Wednesday from a $13.1 million federal TIGER grant which will help build a new commuter rail station here, something the mayor of Pawtucket called a “game changer.”
The station, expected to cost $40 million, will be located between Dexter and Conant streets. It is within and adjacent to the Amtrak-owned railroad right-of-way between the Conant Street bridge and Dexter Street bridge, in the northwest corner of the city of Pawtucket, near its border with Central Falls.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien said a commuter rail station will link “a dense urban population to job centers, educational opportunities, retail and recreational assets.”
“It will attract those from outside the area to its historic mills and investment opportunities for mixed-use transit-oriented development that offers a lifestyle and business climate that are in high demand. The Pawtucket and Central Falls teams have been aggressive and focused on this long-overdue project, which will be a game changer that will revitalize our communities,” Grebien said.
Announced by the state’s congressional delegation, the money is from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program.
The R.I. Department of Transportation will work with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to provide service at the station, which will offer a connection to Wickford Junction, T.F. Green Airport, Providence and other stops on the way to Boston’s South Station.
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, in a statement, heralded the funding.
“The backbone of a great economy is a diverse and comprehensive transportation system, which includes a robust transit system,” Raimondo said.
Said U.S. Sen. Jack F. Reed, “The state must now work to develop a coherent service plan that will support the new station and promote commuter rail ridership throughout the state. I will continue working to secure federal investments to enhance our transportation network.”
Pawtucket and Central Falls will provide a local match of $3 million, with the state contributing additional funds, along with a projected allocation of $18.9 million in federal funding directed to the state in annual appropriations. The next phase of planning and acquisition is slated to commence this winter.
The two cities have been trying to bring back passenger rail service to the area since 1981, the year commuter rail service stopped in Pawtucket.
In 2005, the city of Pawtucket began discussions with RIDOT about adding a Pawtucket rail stop and commissioned a $344,000 feasibility study with the help of a federal grant. In 2008, Reed secured a $1.9 million earmark that RIDOT has used to further refine the location and plans for a new station. A preliminary design for the station, including platforms, ramps and shelter for waiting riders, has already been undertaken by RIDOT.
Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa said the funding announcement brings them “one step closer to bringing unprecedented economic development and employment opportunities to this area.”