PAWTUCKET, RI – More than two decades of work and planning was celebrated today with the opening of the Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  The new transit center will be served by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Providence rail line, as well as the statewide bus network operated by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA).

Twenty years ago, then-Mayor James E. Doyle and members of the Pawtucket Foundation came to U.S. Senator Jack Reed seeking assistance to bring the Pawtucket-Central Falls train station back to life.  The idea was to put mass-transit at the center of a community revitalization effort, with retail, restaurants, and new multi-modal commuter connections.

Today, Senator Reed and the Congressional Delegation joined Governor McKee, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Region 1 Administrator Peter Butler, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Rhode Island Division Administrator Derek Torrey, and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and more to celebrate the first day of service for the new $63 million Pawtucket-Central Falls Transit Center.

Over the last nineteen years, Senator Reed helped deliver over $43 million in federal funding for the project.

In 2004, Senator Reed secured a $235,000 federal earmark to study whether it would be feasible to return the old, out-of-service Pawtucket-Central Falls train station to active service as a working commuter rail station.

“Mayor Doyle, the Pawtucket Foundation, and local leaders saw the idea for a new station as an engine for economic growth that could bring new development potential to the area, including nearby historic mills.  I was proud to work with them to get the project up and running in the early stages.  And the whole delegation worked together to ensure federal funding was available to see it through,” said Senator Reed.

In 2005, the City of Pawtucket and RIDOT undertook planning efforts about adding a Pawtucket rail stop and, with the help of a federal grant secured by Jack Reed and then-Congressman Patrick Kennedy, commissioned a $344,000 feasibility study.

To capitalize on the potential for the project, local officials, including community leaders and non-profits, continued working with Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), to secure a $1.96 million earmark in the fiscal 2008 appropriations law for Pawtucket and RIDOT to further refine the location and plans for a new station.  This federal funding enabled RIDOT to undertake preliminary engineering and environmental studies for the project. This study led RIDOT to land on a new location just down the line form the old Pawtucket-Central Falls Railroad Station building, which was built by the New York/New Haven/Hartford railroads and first opened in 1916 and closed in 1959.

In the ensuing years, working with local, state, and federal officials and his colleagues in the Congressional delegation, Reed helped secure over $43 million in federal funding to help make the project a reality.

The biggest source of funding came from a $13.1 million federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, which Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressmen David Cicilline secured in the summer of 2016. Senator Reed helped create the competitive TIGER grant program as a way to spur tough-to-finance projects like this that have a significant impact on a region or metropolitan area.

In the state’s application for the federal funds, which was spearheaded by Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, then-Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, and Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, the officials noted that the new station would provide “significantly improved transit connection for residents living along a corridor where 72 trains pass each day but to which these residents currently have no access.”

Building on the momentum from the TIGER grant, the state also received a $5.6 million federal grant in the fall of 2016 for nearby bus facility upgrades and service improvements for Pawtucket.  This federal funding was awarded through a “Buses and Bus Facilities” grant program administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).  The competitive grant application was spearheaded by Mayor Grebien with help from RIPTA.  It helped build a new bus hub adjacent to the station with five designated berths with covered shelters and amenities for passengers, and offering connections to a transit emphasis corridor with dedicated bus and bike lanes along Exchange Street and Goff Avenue.  Bicycle storage racks are also available in the plaza area.

Another $22 million in federal transportation funding was set aside for the project under annual funding formulas, including through FTA’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program.  This money was not guaranteed – all four members of the Congressional delegation had to work together to ensure ample federal transportation funds were included in annual appropriations laws.

All told, $43 million in federal funding was contributed toward the project.

“This long-awaited station is a key link in a broader economic development strategy for Pawtucket and Central Falls.  I am proud to have led efforts over the last two decades to deliver federal investments to complete this state-of-the-art transit hub.  In addition to providing efficient, reliable transportation options for commuters, it will drive private investment, economic growth, and opportunity for the whole area,” concluded Senator Reed.

Barletta Heavy Division, Inc., was awarded a design-build contract for the project and began construction in November 2018.  The transit center’s rail hub includes dedicated platforms for northbound and southbound service, a glass-enclosed pedestrian bridge, elevators, ramps and stairs. Its design utilizes state-of-the-art composite panels with covered waiting areas. The train station also has a separate drop off area and set of stairs and ramps to the platform on the Barton Street side of the rail corridor.