KINGSTON — The state Department of Transportation and Amtrak will begin work this month on a $41 million project at Kingston Station to install a third rail track and two high-level platforms to allow better access for passengers with disabilities.
The project will benefit train operations in the Northeast and long-term transit planning in Rhode Island, state officials said during a media event Monday. Laying the third track will enable regional Amtrak trains stopping at Kingston Station to come off the main line, allowing high-speed Amtrak Acela trains to bypass them. The additional capacity also would accommodate expanded commuter rail service to Kingston when the state expands commuter rail in South County, officials said.
Limited commuter rail is available from Wickford, but University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley has advocated for that service to extend to Kingston.
"Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state, but commuters here use transit at a rate well below the national average," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said in a press release. "The improvements are an immediate benefit for Amtrak and their movement throughout the Northeast Corridor, and they provide a double benefit of enabling an expansion of our commuter rail in the future."
State officials held a groundbreaking ceremony at the train station Monday. Gov. Raimondo, U.S senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, and DOT and Amtrak officials attended.
"Good infrastructure is core to sparking Rhode Island's economic comeback," Raimondo said. "We need good and safe roads, good and safe bridges, an excellent airport, and excellent train stations. I want Rhode Island to lead infrastructure."
The project will be largely funded by the federal government, with $26.2 million dedicated through the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. Rhode Island was one of 15 states awarded that competitive grant in 2011. The remaining cost will be covered by Amtrak.
"This project is very important to the continued operation of the Kingston Station," said Senator Jack Reed at the ceremony. Reed is a member of the Appropriations Committee, and helped secure federal funds for the program in 2011. He also worked with then-U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to direct unused rail funds from other states to Rhode Island. "This Kingston Station gets 150,000 passengers per year. It is ranked nationally the 68th ranking station in the country, out of 500 stations. This is a very productive station and it will be more productive when these improvements are completed."
Manafort Brothers Inc. will do the preliminary foundation work for 1.5 miles of new track, as well as install drainage, retaining walls and pole foundations for the wires that run overhead. The company also will raise the existing platforms at Kingston Station. The station improvements will be done in phases so service is uninterrupted, according to officials.
Once the preliminary work is complete, Amtrak will begin construction on the tracks and installation of the overhead wires. The project is expected to be complete in summer 2017.