Wickford Junction (MBTA station)
Platform at Wickford Junction in June 2012
|Location||1011 Ten Rod Road
North Kingstown, Rhode Island
|Platforms||1 side platform|
|Tracks||3 (two main and one platform siding)|
|Connections||RIPTA: 65X, 66|
|Parking||1100 spaces ($4.00 fee)|
|Bicycle facilities||20 spots (free)|
|Opened||1844, April 23, 2012|
|Closed||1981 (former station)|
|Electrified||Main tracks (but not platform siding)|
|Passengers (Q1 2017)||292 daily boardings|
Wickford Junction is a commuter rail station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, United States on the Northeast Corridor, extending the Providence/Stoughton Line of the MBTA Commuter Rail south from Providence. It serves local commuters to Providence, Rhode Island and Boston, Massachusetts. The new station, which opened on April 23, 2012, has a large park and ride garage and was part of a $336 million project that also included the new T. F. Green Airport station. A former station on the site served mainline trains from 1844 to 1981, as well as the Wickford Branch from 1870 to 1925.
In 1844, seven years after the Rhode Island section of the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad opened, a small station was placed at Wickford. The Newport & Wickford Railway & Steamship Line opened in 1870 as a branch from the mainline to Wickford Landing, where wealthy riders would board steamships to Newport. A new station named Wickford Junction was built in 1871 at a cost of $8,000, with a $3,500 addition sixteen years later. The station burned and was replaced by a smaller structure around 1890. Passenger service ended on the branch in 1925, though some mainline service continued to stop.
The station building was torn down in 1969, leaving just the stone foundation, which was later filled with gravel. The pedestrian overpass was moved in 1971 to Route 128 station, where it remained until the station was rebuilt in 2000. The station, by then just bare platforms, was served by a state-subsidized Providence-to-Westerly commuter train starting in 1972, and later by Amtrak's Beacon Hill from 1978 to 1981. After the Beacon Hill was discontinued, the station closed.
The Wickford Landing branch's right-of-way is still extant, as is the remains of a turntable about 700 feet north of Ten Rod Road. The state is considering building a bikeway along the right-of-way to connect the Wickford town center with the Wickford Junction development and station. The original station's foundation still abuts the east side of the tracks 200 feet south of the Ten Rod Road overpass, but it is buried under a gravel access road.
After Beacon Hill service ended in 1981, some residents proposed a new station and the restoration of service. Bob Coie, a local builder, had bought a strip of land along the tracks in 1959 and acquired a large parcel along their west side in 1982. In 1985, he convinced the town to upzone the land for commercial use with the intention of eventually building a "pre-planned business district" and commuter rail station there. A state study of rail corridors was completed in 1994 and the Northeast Corridor was designated as the highest-priority line for commuter service to Providence. An addendum in 1995 projected daily ridership from Wickford to be 2,869 in 2000 and 3,386 in 2020. An operations plan was released in 2001, and environmental assessment was completed in 2003.
Partial funding for the new station was contained in the 2005 Transportation Bill. An additional $12,269,449 was contained in an earmark to the FY2008 Transportation and Housing & Urban Development appropriations bill. In late 2009, the State of Rhode Island spent $3.2 million to purchase 350,000 square feet (33,000 m2) of land for the station and parking garage, with hopes that it could be in service in 2011.
Ground was broken for the new station on August 18, 2010. Primary construction work on the station platform and garage was completed "on time and under budget" in December 2011, and a test train was run to the station in March 2012. The station opened on April 23, 2012. A major part of the modern station is the four-story parking garage, which was modeled after the nearby Lafayette Mill. The garage includes an indoor waiting room - rare in the MBTA system - and a small coffee/snack shop. A 8-foot (2.4 m)-tall bronze sculpture celebrating the history of rail service at Wickford Junction was completed in October 2015.
Ridership at Wickford Junction has been far below projections, some of which had assumed that transit-oriented development would be constructed at the station. Daily boarding were projected to reach 3,386 in 2020 by the 1995 analysis; this was halved to 1,669 in the 2003 Environmental Assessment.
Initial ridership in May 2012 was 130 inbound riders per day, of whom 80 percent rode to Providence and 20 percent to Boston. Ridership increased to 150 riders per day by early June and to 175 daily by February 2014, with growth falling short of expectations.
Ridership averaged 292 daily boardings in the first quarter of 2017. For the second half of 2017, the state offered free intrastate rides in an attempt to promote the under-utilized T.F. Green Airport and Wickford Junction stations. The six-month promotion was expected to cost about $102,000. Ridership increased by 50% within the first month of the promotion. The station currently only has weekday service, but planners hope to add weekend service eventually.
Bus operations and consolidation
Wickford Junction's drop-off lane also serves as a busway, which RIPTA bus route 66 URI / Galilee briefly served before it was rerouted to a park-and-ride closer to Route 2. In January 2013, RIDOT began planning to sell the park-and-ride property and reroute the 66 and the new 65X Wakefield Express to Wickford Junction on all trips; however, the plan was held up by concerns about eliminating free parking in the lot in favor of the paid garage. In July 2015, the agency renewed plans to sell the park-and-ride lot for an estimated $1.9 million and reroute the buses, but similar concerns were voiced at a public meeting. A judge blocked RIDOT's sale plan in July 2017 over concerns about the rights of the family of the original property owners (from whom it was taken by eminent domain in the 1930s) to buy back the property.
In August 2015, RIDOT announced that it would be taking over operations and maintenance at Wickford Junction from a private contractor. The savings from the change - estimated at $340,000 annually - were to be used to increase frequencies on the 65X route. At the same time, RIDOT began a two-week, $372,500 project to allow bus operations to be shifted to the station, which involved constructing a bus depot next to the garage and a new access driveway from Route 102.
Only "preliminary work" was completed by August 31 when Coie's company, owner of the adjacent shopping plaza, filed a lawsuit against RIDOT, alleging that the changes would reduce traffic to the shopping center and cause a safety issue. RIDOT answered the claim, saying that the 2009 land deal gave the agency exclusive rights to the transit facility land. The state settled the lawsuit with the company in November 2015 by agreeing to pay $750,000 by July 2016. Effective December 7, 2015, all 65X and 66 trips were rerouted to Wickford Junction, with the garage now open all hours every day. The restrooms and waiting room had full hours beginning in January 2016.
The station opened on April 23, 2012 with ten trains in each direction on weekdays. Two off-peak trains run only as far as Providence, while the other eight - including five rush hour trains - run to Boston. Travel time is approximately 35 minutes to Providence and 100 minutes to Boston.
The station is located on an 0.7-mile (1.1 km) siding which connects to the southbound mainline track at Stony interlocking. The siding allows Amtrak trains to pass while a commuter train is stopped at the station, and for commuter rail trains to enter and exit the Northeast Corridor at speed (and thus interfere less with Amtrak operations). Wickford Junction station is located at milepost 165.8 on the Northeast Corridor - 16 miles from Providence and 63 miles from Boston.
The 2014 State Rail Plan recommends the implementation of shuttle service between Wickford Junction and Providence via T.F. Green Airport with half-hour headways. The service, which could be operated with multiple units rather than conventional locomotive-hauled commuter trains, is expected to increase ridership at Wickford to as high as 3,400 riders per day.
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