transportation

RIDOT abandons Hopkinton travel plaza due to cemeteries, wetlands at site

Residents also voiced opposition to the project

A CONCEPTUAL RENDERING of the travel plaza that the state wanted to build at Exit 1 on Interstate 95 in Hopkinton. R.I. Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. said the state will not pursue the project.
A CONCEPTUAL RENDERING of the travel plaza that the state wanted to build at Exit 1 on Interstate 95 in Hopkinton. R.I. Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti Jr. said the state will not pursue the project. COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
3/20/17

HOPKINTON – The R.I. Department of Transportation has abandoned pursuit of a $12 million project to create a new travel plaza and welcome center at exit 1 on Interstate 95.

Site problems, including the presence of wetlands and three Narragansett Indian cemeteries, as well as community opposition in Hopkinton were cited by RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. on Monday.

In a release, he announced that RIDOT has asked the Federal Highway Administration, via a letter, to rescind its application for a $9 million federal grant that would have covered three-quarters of the project cost.

“This was the right decision to make for several reasons,” Alviti said.

The state wanted to do what “was best” for Hopkinton, he said. Its residents treasure the rural nature of their town and wanted to keep it that way, he noted.

Second, environmental site assessments and an archaeological review detected other concerns. Finally, in its meeting with federal officials, the state found that the “environmental and social challenges of this project would make it difficult to go through the environmental assessment process in a timely manner.”

In the site analysis, wetlands were delineated along several areas within the designated building parcel. And the property is within a groundwater reservoir district.

“All of this gave us pause,” Alviti said. “But most importantly our archaeological surveys showed that there were historical artifacts of great significance to the Narragansett Indians, including three cemeteries.”

RIDOT has already budgeted $3 million for the project. A portion of those funds will be redirected to the existing Welcome Center on I-95, between exits 2 and 3, reopened by the state last summer after a closure of five years. Those funds will be put toward installation of electrical pods to allow long-haul truckers to plug in at night for warmth and light.

The remainder of the funds will be put toward bridge reconstruction and repair.

In October 2015, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and the state’s Congressional Delegation had announced the U.S. Department of Transportation had approved the state’s application for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

The 20-acre site was to have included development of a 6,000-square-foot Welcome Center, with rest rooms, food options, bike amenities and tourism information.

A park-and-ride facility for up to 200 vehicles, a RIPTA bus hub and shelter and up to 10 fueling stations for cars, including for electric vehicles, were also part of the conceptual plan.