Pawtucket station cost climbs to $51M

By Patrick Anderson
Journal Staff Writer

The reason: R.I. last year ditched its plan for separate tracks — to save money — and now construction has been pushed to nights and other times of light traffic.

PAWTUCKET — The price tag on the planned Pawtucket commuter rail station has climbed past $50 million despite the design being slimmed down a year ago to save money.

In fact, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation says, costs have risen — from an initial estimate of $40 million to $51 million — partly because of the decision made last year to forgo building a separate set of tracks for the new station and instead construct it directly on the busy Northeast Corridor tracks.


Amtrak’s safety rules for the Northeast Corridor have forced station work to be done at night and at other times of light traffic, which apparently wasn’t anticipated and has increased costs, DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said Monday.

Although last year, Stephen Devine, the DOT’s head of rail and transit projects, said eliminating the second set of tracks from the station was done to save money and keep the project cost at $40 million, Charles St. Martin recast the change as an “upgrade” that could help the MBTA switch from diesel to electric trains and help Gov. Gina Raimondo’s push to establish express rail service between Providence and Boston.

“Prior to the beginning of the Pawtucket Station Project, we set a budget for it of $40 million. Since then, RIDOT entered into discussions with Amtrak to upgrade [Pawtucket-Central Falls] Station from a commuter stop on siding tracks to a main line stop,” St. Martin wrote in an email. “This means that [the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] can use the station now and it will be well positioned for future uses. We have now budgeted the $10.9 million cost of the main line stop as part of the Station project.”

The Northeast Corridor tracks are already electrified, and St. Martin said the DOT has never looked at how much it would cost to run wires to the sidings. He said stopping in Pawtucket would be faster if trains don’t have to pull off into sidings.

Rail advocates say building the new station directly on the Northeast Corridor is not an “upgrade,” but a cutback that could someday limit rail service.