Rhode Island officials are poised to make two of the largest investments in downtown Providence parking and mass-transit infrastructure in years.
Two independent but connected projects in Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s state budget proposal would turn underutilized downtown lots into a new public parking garage and two new R.I. Public Transit Authority bus hubs.
The two projects carry estimated price tags in the neighborhood of $40 million each and one of the bus hubs will likely share a location with the parking garage at the Garrahy Judicial Complex on Dorrance Street.
Both Garrahy complex projects are being billed as way to boost redevelopment of the nearby former Interstate 195 properties now branded as The Link.
The Garrahy parking garage is an old concept revived by I-195 Redevelopment Commission Chairman Colin Kane, who describes it as a necessity to prevent the roughly 20 acres of former highway land from remaining vacant.
But Kane is also enthusiastic about the idea of a bus hub within the garage and said improved RIPTA service in the neighborhood will also help develop The Link and minimize the amount of automobile parking that will need to be built there in the future.
“It is really cool and dovetailing with the efforts the city is making,” Kane said about the combined parking complex/bus hub idea. “I am thrilled to be going to market in a couple of weeks with a story to tell about how we can provide transportation.”
As central as The Link is to the state’s economic-development strategy, by itself the second RIPTA bus hub planned adjacent to the Providence Train Station could be a larger project than the combined Garrahy proposal.
That’s because the hub is being looked at as part of a public-private partnership including, potentially, expansion of the train station, more garage parking and mixed-use development of the vacant land next door owned by Capital Properties Inc.
“A lot of people came together and a lot of great things happened in the 1980s when the train tracks and river got relocated,” said Todd Turcotte, vice president of Capital Properties. “Thirty years later maybe this is the next step.”
The new bus hubs planned for Garrahy and the train station are part of a multifaceted reworking of the RIPTA bus system and its historic terminal at Kennedy Plaza.