Kennedy Plaza is the central hub for Rhode Island’s public transit system, and each day this public space is traversed by more than 60,000 riders. RIPTA ridership has grown significantly since the hub was first built, and the consequent intensity of use far outstrips the plaza’s capacity. In the best case, this congestion compromises the rider experience. In the worst case, it threatens community safety.
Reimagining Kennedy Plaza, enhancing our downtown transit corridor, and creating a modern, clean and accessible intermodal transit hub at the Amtrak station, will be critical improvements to a 21st century transit system for Rhode Island.
What is the current plan for downtown Providence’s public transportation?
With this transit bond passed, the work has turned to planning the completion of this northern intermodal hub, as well as a smaller southern hub located near the Lifespan hospital complex. These connected transit hubs — northern, southern and Kennedy Plaza — will comprise a new transit corridor that will save time for riders by circumventing the outmoded “hub and spoke” system that brings many riders through Kennedy Plaza unnecessarily. Riders who wish to travel to Kennedy Plaza will still be able to do so, and downtown “super stops” will serve buses running through the plaza at five minute intervals.
New stops in the Jewelry District, I-195 corridor, and Downcity will bring many riders closer to their final downtown destinations. The southern hub will be conveniently located close to the hospitals, servicing many riders and helping reduce congestion and parking concerns at the hospital. The northern hub, located near the Amtrak station, will link with the train system and include benefits such as indoor waiting areas, restrooms and retail amenities.
Is there an update on the progress of this project?
Since approval of the ballot initiative supporting this work, much has been happening to move this project forward. Earlier this month four companies, one from Rhode Island and three from Massachusetts, met the deadline set by RIDOT to offer their companies qualifications for building the northern hub. These submissions are currently under review by the state.
After review, qualified applicants will be invited to submit more detailed proposals, with the final contract being awarded by RIDOT in the summer of 2017. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2018, with the goal of final completion in 2020. On a parallel track, the southern hub is expected to be complete in 2019.
DPPC’s vision to make Greater Kennedy Plaza a great public space aligns completely with the needs of our evolving public transit system. We were proud to lead the MoveRI Forward coalition and are now focused on advocating for the mutually supportive goals of a highly functioning, statewide transit system and safe, accessible public spaces in downtown Providence.
We are happy to see the progress that has been made and will continue to update our readers quarterly with any new developments.
Images courtesy of the Providence Department of Planning + Development