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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ Itâ€™s been full steam ahead at the construction site for the new $22 million Wickford Junction Train Station project, which is slated to be open for commuters next spring.
Work is ahead of schedule and both the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and Bob Cioe, owner of the property, are pleased with the progress of the construction.
â€śWeâ€™ve been getting good encouraging feedback from the community,â€ť said RIDOT representative Bryan Lucier.
With the exterior of the three-story, 1,100-space garage complete, plumbers and electricians have been working diligently installing the various utilities. Six hundred feet of the 800 feet of platform is completed. Cioe expects to turn operation over to Amtrak by the end of August so they can begin installing software and signals and begin trial runs. Amtrakâ€™s work is expected to take between 22-24 weeks.
The new Wickford station will extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) from Boston to Providence. Amtrak has provided $7 million worth of track and signal work for the construction.
There will be a pedestrian bridge beginning on the second floor and ending on the elevated platform.
In addition to the current two railroad tracks, a 4,000 foot side-track still needs to be constructed as well as a retaining wall along the side of it. This will allow the train to pull off the main tracks as Wickford is the ending location for the commuter rail and wonâ€™t interfere with other trains.
The garage will be complete by the first of the New Year and will have many attractive and safety features. Both the elevators and stairways will have glass sides, for the purpose of being seen from outside the garage.
â€śWhen itâ€™s dark out and passengers are exiting the train, if something were to happen in those elevators and/or stairways, people will be able to see if thereâ€™s a problem,â€ť said Cioe.
The garage will have emergency pull stations at every elevator and stairway connecting directly to 9-1-1, a staple on college campuses, as well as security cameras throughout the garage. Commuters will be able to enjoy a coffee shop, bathrooms and a waiting area equipped with air conditioning and heating. And that's something, Cieco said, most commuter rail locations donâ€™t have.
Another added amenity to the garage will be a special area for people to charge their electric cars while at work.
â€śWe wanted to make this project as friendly and palpable to a wide group of people and I think we achieved that with our little additions,â€ť added Cioe.
It was imperative to Cioe that the Wickford Junction station blends in with the character of North Kingstown and not be an eyesore like the station at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. Heâ€™s added a historic touch with a replica of the clock outside the former Providence department store Shepardâ€™s.
Once the station is fully operational, the fare will be $2.50 each way from Wickford to Providence and $2.25 from Wickford to the TF Green Airport. Parking will be $4 a day. The commute will take 10 minutes from Wickford to the airport and another 10 minutes to Providence. Travel time from Wickford to Boston will be about an hour and forty minutes.
According to Lucier, the schedule is still being compiled and reviewed by RIDOT, Amtrak and the Providence and Worcester Railroad, so there may be some variations depending on this process.
Daily ridership is expected to be approximately 1,750 passengers, with eight weekday roundtrips planned. The highly anticipated groundbreaking ceremony took place almost a year ago this August. The project was designed and constructed by Manafort Brothers, Inc.
â€śWeâ€™ve exceeded our highway building and now we have to build on the transit system we have here,â€ť Michael Lewis, director of the RIDOT, said at the ground breaking ceremony last year.