Woonsocket-Providence passenger rail on track for spring 2020

Woonsocket-Providence passenger rail on track for spring 2020

WOONSOCKET – The Boston Surface Railroad Company’s plans to bring passenger rail service to Woonsocket are on track, with the first trains scheduled to depart 1 Depot Square for Providence in spring of 2020, according to company founder Vincent Bono.

In August, the company purchased its first trains, two streamliner locomotives acquired at auction from the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The trains are now headed for Seaview Transportation in the Quonset Business Park, where they’ll be reconditioned and prepared for the tracks.

“We were pretty excited about that. Those are just the locomotives, though, we’re looking to buy our actual coach cars in the next few weeks,” said Bono.

In the meantime, BSRC has begun upgrading the tracks that will be used by arrangement with Genesee & Wyoming – the company that purchased the Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. in 2016 – including replacing ties and installing monitored switches. According to Bono, the tracks are currently rated for 60 miles per hour for passenger service, far faster than the 45 miles per hour his trains will typically travel, but the company isn’t taking any risks with safety.

“It is nice if you’re running behind schedule to have the option to pick up the speed a little bit,” he said. “It’s more about reliability and consistency for people.”

Bono founded the company in 2012 with the goal of providing private commuter rail service on the underserved transportation route between Worcester and Providence with a stop in Woonsocket. While the tracks pass close to the Berkeley Mill in Cumberland and the villages of Albion and Manville in Lincoln, BSRC representative Todd Stacy said the company has no plans to add additional stops at this time.

“Those locations are too close and add unnacceptable trip time increases and typically would cannibalize ridership from Woonsocket,” he said.

Those tracks, which cross Hamlet Avenue in Woosnocket and pass close to the Woonsocket Middle School complex before continuing south, currently see minimal freight traffic, much of it at night. As the company’s operating date draws closer, though, Bono told The Breeze they plan to launch a “heavy duty” outreach program with the schools to educate kids about the importance of not walking on the tracks.

“It’s really tough to get people to internalize that train tracks are dangerous,” he said. “We’re looking at probably four trips in the morning and four trips in the evening. It’s not a tremendous amount of traffic, but one preventable accident is one too many.”

The company is also preparing to submit its positive train control implementation plan to the Federal Railroad Administration. While not strictly required under the initial proposed schedule, positive train control – a digital system designed to stop accidents before they occur – is an extra safety measure that is gradually becoming an industry standard among high-traffic passenger rails. The company will also begin work on a new platform at the Woonsocket Depot station in the spring.

As the work progresses, Bono said the company has fielded many questions from residents about the status of the project, sometimes receiving as many as 20 voicemails a week at their offices at 1 Depot Square. In response, the company will hold a public question-and-answer session and community update next Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at their offices, with preference given to Woonsocket residents if they run out of space. Individuals can pre-register for the free event at www.bsrc.com/events.

“There’s a lot of curiosity out there because people are excited about the service coming back,” he said.

The project has proceeded in steps since 2012 as the company works to develop partnerships with the cities along its main route along with a proposed future route through Lowell, Mass., and up into Nashua and Concord, N.H.. In July, the company learned it was eligible to apply directly for federal matching grants without a municipal or state sponsor, a development that could accelerate planned track improvements.

Another development has put a time frame on the company’s schedule of late. Bono said he’s under pressure from Worcester city officials to have the passenger rail ready for the opening of the new Worcester Red Sox stadium in 2021 and plans to extend service to Worcester within a year of opening the Providence-Woonsocket line. While he has no idea if Rhode Islanders will use his rail service to travel up to Worcester to support their former Triple-A PawSox, the entrepreneur, a Boston native who now lives in Woonsocket, admitted he’s still getting used to the team’s planned move.

“I can’t bring myself to call them the WooSox,” he said.

For now, Bono anticipates most of their Woonsocket clients will be commuters, with 140 parking spaces available at the station and plenty of housing within walking distance. The company hopes to kick off with at least 100 passengers on day one and grow to about 360,000 annual passengers after five years, with about 1,000 passengers per day expected to come from Woonsocket. Tickets will cost about $8 one-way from Woonsocket to Providence, and discounts will be available for regular travelers.

Comments

This presents an opportunity for Main St., a train running between Providence and Worcester and those empy buildings at Depot Sq. and on Main St. These could be apartments and/or condos on the upper floors, restauarants/coffee shops, stores below. Maybe a gym so folks could work out before leaving for work! Aggressive marketing in Providence and Worcester as an alternative to living in those cities. I see this as an opportunity for Woonsocket. I hope that others see this and run with it, will the Mayor push this?
This could be a win/win for everyone.
Go for it.

Hope people use it. Hope they expand to a couple of stops alone the way AFTER they get financially established. One step at a time!

Also, it would be a GREAT boon to Woonsocket area if they could get a direct commuter time to BOSTON!! Have less stops than the Attleboro line. Just morning and afternoon runs. The city should REALLY start to push this idea.

Housing market would EXPLODE! $300K house here cost well over $1,000,000 in greater Boston. Plus who in their right mind likes to drive in Boston.

Someone needs to tell WHY anyone coming from either Providence or Worcester will want to get off the train here? My bet, More people from Woonsocket will get on the train and not return!

Well "RD" perhaps if the city had a forward vision and refurbished the apartment buildings near the depot, then people from Providence or areas near Worcester would want to come here to live. It's less expensive, and we could have a revitalized city the way that Providence did. Let's think positive.

So what is YOUR solution to the city's problems? Do nothing?

Thank you to the brave people are coming forward with new ideas.

It seems people like RD wants to continue doing (electing) the same old - same old and see what's changes

Ever wonder why we continue to get just MORE of the same old same old!!

Presently there is not enough people in the city looking to commute to Prov. or Worc. on a daily basis and no reason for people in those areas to come here. This makes it a losing financial proposition and another disappointment in the making.
When the city develops a purpose, a vision and a comprehensive plan, then the train has a chance to be successful. Until then, it nothing more than "The cart before the Horse".
The reality is Woonsocket is a "Sanctuary city" inundated with "Entitlement" seekers. Those two facts will stunt future growth & development until taxpayers get a handle on cleaning it up.

OK RD, where is your data to back your claims? You can not just make a general statement without proof. That is one of the first things taught in higher education. For example, according to the RI DOT (http://www.dlt.ri.gov/lmi/pdf/commute.pdf), 32% of the people who live in Woonsocket work in Mass. AND 17% of the people who work in Woonsocket commute from Mass. That sure seems like enough people to justify fixing things up, don't you?

So Frankie, using your data, 14,000 people living in Woonsocket travel to Massachusetts to work and 3.060 people who live in Mass work in Woonsocket. What percentage of those people either work or live within 1 mile of a train stop? Now tell me what the cost of train ride and parking will cost each commuter per day. The cost and expense of a round trip train cycle from Prov. to Worc. is in excess of $12,000.00 per run. At a $16 round trip fare, Boston Surface would need 750 passengers per day.... It won't happen.

I suggest you both come to the meeting on Wednesday and see our presentation. Interestingly all of RD's points are addressed but to be clear BSRC's project is not (from our point of view) aimed at solving Woonsocket's economic issue, only attracting enough riders from Worcester to Providence and from Woonsocket to Providence to turn a profit. We of course feel it will be good for the city but whether Woonsocket can attract riders from the other markets is a different issue entirely.

www.bsrc.com/events

Todd, Thank you for the open invitation. However I will be in Detroit participating in a forum on revitalization for that city. My issue is not with the BSRC project. It is with the naïve tax payers in Woonsocket that feel that a train stop is going to turn the city around. In reality, some soul searching needs to take place and some "out-of-the-BOX thinking needs to happen in order to build a vision and execute on it. It needs to happen quickly or they will have squandered the opportunity BSRC is presenting them with.

I would like to see this service be a more local service stopping at all the towns along the Blackstone Valley, since it will help economic development, and it would be horrible to have whirring fast express trains going through this historical area.