URI community planning students urge development of intermodal transportation hub at T.F. Green Airport
Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892
KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 25, 2005 -- It has been nearly eight years since then-Governor Lincoln Almond proposed an intermodal train station adjacent to T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, and while the idea has generated enthusiasm and support, development of the project has not yet begun.
So a University of Rhode Island community-planning professor and seven graduate students spent a semester assessing the project, and they have now issued a final report designed to spur development of the facility. They presented their initial findings to stakeholders in the project in December, and will make a final presentation to the Airport Corp. at its April 27 board meeting. The study was funded by the URI Transportation Center.
“Green Airport is the closest major airport to an Amtrak rail line of any airport terminal in the country, so it provides us with an excellent opportunity to create an intermodal transportation hub by building a train station across the street from the airport,” said URI Professor Farhad Atash. “It would bring several modes of transportation together at one site – train, air, car, and bus – making transportation connections between modes easier and creating the potential for significant economic development.”
In addition to the new train station, the $168 million project includes a car rental facility from which all the car rental agencies would operate, a “people mover” to transport travelers between the train station and the airport terminal, and creation of a transit-oriented economic development district around the train station.
After analyzing all the studies conducted to date on the project, talking with stakeholders, identifying the project’s challenges and benefits, and comparing the project to six similar facilities elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe, the URI students developed a series of recommendations to help move the project forward. “This project has numerous benefits to the city, the state, the economy and the environment, and with good planning the drawbacks of the project can be addressed,” Atash said.
Chief among the challenges facing the project is financing. It’s an expensive project to build and operate, and all of the sources of funding have not yet been identified. So the URI students recommend constructing the project in phases: the train station first, the garage second and the people mover last.
“Once the train station is under construction, that will trigger other development in the district so the City of Warwick would see economic benefits even before the whole project is completed,” said the URI professor.
The report also suggests the creation of a stakeholder council to foster communication and collaboration among all interested parties – the city of Warwick, the R.I. Department of Transportation, the Airport Corp., car rental agencies, residents, travelers and the city redevelopment agency.
Among the students’ other recommendations are: creation of a coordinated marketing campaign and website to raise public awareness and support for the project; continuous monitoring of environmental impacts to document the project’s benefits and improve relations with the neighborhoods around it; establishment of public-private partnerships to share the costs and benefits of the project; and accelerated land acquisition and a progressive tax structure in the train station district.
“It was a tremendous benefit to have a different set of eyes looking at this project,” said Stephen Devine, chief of intermodal planning for the R.I. Department of Transportation. “The students brought some fresh energy and showed us things that we might not have thought about. Their efforts have kept a spotlight on the project and kept it alive. Things are definitely moving on the project now.”
“I found the project provided a wealth of practical experience,” said student Joshua Tootoo of Wilmington, N.C. “In particular it provided a good understanding of not only the issues surrounding the Warwick Intermodal Train Station, but also the positions of the various stakeholders. The studio format of the class allows future community planning students at URI to work with real-life problems in a team setting. This allows team members to work to their strengths, contribute to the group and develop their skills.
The other students participating in the project (and their hometowns) are: Linsey Cameron (Narragansett), Bonnie Dixon (New Haven, Conn.), Ashley Hahn (Jamestown), Barbora Persinova (Liberec, Czech Republic), Samuel Snead (Providence) and Raymond Watson (Providence).