Would you take the train to TF Green airport? RI pursuing $247M Amtrak station
Rhode Island transportation officials are working on a plan to get Amtrak trains that now pass through Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport’s «Interlink» station, to stop there.
But it won’t be simple or inexpensive.
They will need to build a new signals, a second platform, a fourth track and electrify the existing track that Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trains now use to stop at Green, according to engineers who have looked at the project
A 2020 study commissioned by the state Department of Transportation estimated the least expensive version of the T.F. Green Amtrak station project would cost $247 million. And that was before the COVID pandemic sent the cost of construction upward.
But the DOT is pushing ahead.
It has started a $3.5 million preliminary engineering study for the project funded by a $2.8 million federal grant and $700,000 state match.
Rhode Island has been investigating an airport Amtrak stop since 1999 and spent $217,000 on a 2017 feasibility study from consultant WSP in addition to $320,000 for AECOM.
The new preliminary engineering work, expected to take a year to complete, will bring the project to the 30% designed, a point DOT officials say should allow them to secure construction funding and start the environmental review process.
«R.I.T.F. Green would be one of the very few airports nationwide that would be within walking distance of Amtrak service, in fact it would be the closest on the Northeast Corridor,» RIDOT Chief of Intermodal Programs Stephen Devine, told airport officials Thursday. «We believe this would bring extensive benefits and opportunities to the airport. It would increase R.I.T.F. Green’s competitiveness and accessibility up and down the Northeast Corridor, including to Connecticut.»
Train service to airports often isn’t a huge driver of ridership.
In a study finished last year, AECOM estimated 71,200 Amtrak trips to or from the airport per year, which averages out to a little less than 200 per day.
The MBTA commuter rail averaged 438 trips per day to T.F. Green before 2020, but that has fallen to 186 trips per day since the pandemic, according to DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin.
The number of people who might take the train to T.F. Green would depends on how frequently trains stop there, something that would have to be worked out by Amtrak. Each stop adds to the length of time it takes a train to get to make the trip from Washington to Boston.
Aside from allowing people to get to the airport, adding a fourth track along the stretch of the Northeast Corridor near the airport would increase capacity and make it easier for faster trains to overtake slower ones, improving reliability, AECOM said.
The MBTA is looking at converting its commuter rail lines to faster, more reliable electric trains and electrifying the tracks into T.F. Green would allow those kinds of trains to reach the airport.
On Twitter: @PatrickAnderso_