An $8,040,000 federal grant will enable the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority to step up plans to abandon the Warwick Mall as its southern hub and replace it with expanded operations at the Knight Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island.
The money would also be used to build a new hub at the University of Rhode Island and acquire four new buses.
According to a press release from the office of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed – the ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, who announced the grant – nearly 35,000 URI and CCRI students are currently served annually by RIPTA.
At CCRI, the buses-only lane created by temporary Jersey barriers would be formalized and there would be improved passenger facilities, including shelters, real-time display screens and berths for two to four buses. According to Barbara Polichetti, spokeswoman for RIPTA, both the CCRI and URI hubs would be in design in early 2020 with construction the following year.
It’s positive news for CCRI.
“CCRI has been working with RIPTA for several months to improve the current traffic flow at the Knight Campus, including finding a long term solution for the existing RIPTA-only pass lane as well as to enhance the bus shelters. The federal funding announced by Senator Reed will allow us to make those improvements more quickly and increase the number and frequency of routes for our many students who rely on public transportation to get to and from the college. This is a tremendous opportunity to increase ridership across the state and create stronger connections between all our campuses, especially our Warwick and Providence campuses,” Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for CCRI, said in an email.
Polichetti said the hubs are included in RIPTA’s master plan, which the agency aims to have completed early next year. The long-range plan, which among other proposals has looked at bus-only rapid transit lanes, will be analyzed for potential funding and measured for public support, she said.
The Transit Master Plan project is a collaborative effort between RIPTA, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and the Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning. The Transit Master Plan, which is projected to be completed by early next year, will become part of the state’s federally mandated Long Range Transportation Plan, or LRTP.
“Working with our partner agencies, we do anticipate having more public workshops shortly after the New Year,” Polichetti said.
In extending his thanks to Reed and the cooperative efforts of CCRI and URI, Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s executive director, said in a statement: “The creation of these two hubs will help improve access to education in our state and also create better transit access in these areas for the public in general.”
The federal Buses and Bus Facilities grant requires an 80/20 match, which means the federal government will pay for up to 80 percent of the cost. The project is estimated to cost $10.8 million.
“This is good news for URI, CCRI, and everyone who uses RIPTA. This federal investment will help RIPTA build new facilities and provide reliable service to and from URI and CCRI. It will literally make higher education opportunities more accessible for Rhode Islanders,” Reed said in a statement.