Could Amtrak trains along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) eventually stop at T.F. Green station on their way to New York and Washington D.C.?
Perhaps, but a recent joint report from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak and The Rhode Island Airport Corporation indicates that this hypothetical situation would not be happening any time soon.
The 57-page report laid out four different potential scenarios for adding Amtrak service to Green, each with its own list of pros and cons. The scenarios’ economical impacts, manufacturing requirements and their estimated costs, benefits and risks are outlined below.
– Extend Shore Line East from New London to Providence
Report summary: “This option would expand the airport market into southwestern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut, but it has limited benefits in connecting T.F. Green Airport to Boston. This scenario would leverage existing (or planned) rolling stock from Shore Line East.”
Estimated capital costs: $125 to $140 million for new infrastructure and $75 million for new trains
Estimated annual subsidy required: $9 to $16 million
Possible revenue from new fares: $2 to $4.4 million
Scenario #2 – Provide new intrastate commuter rail service between Westerly and Providence via T.F. Green
Report summary: “This could be positioned as a new service with less implementation constraints compared to a new intercity service. The commuter market to Providence would be positively impacted, but the airport would not necessarily experience big gains in catchment. This scenario would not improve intercity passenger rail connections.”
Estimated capital costs: $70 to $220 million for new infrastructure and $40 to $65 million for new trains
Estimated annual subsidy required: $8 to $9 million
Possible revenue from new fares: $3.5 to $3.7 million Scenario #3 – Provide new intercity rail service between Boston, Providence, T.F. Green, Wickford Junction/New London and intermediate stops
Report summary: “This option would maximize ridership and economic development, but the implementation issues of a complicated governance structure, NEC capacity constraints, ridership and revenue impacts on Amtrak’s existing rail services, and overall costs present multiple hurdles.”
Estimated capital costs: $20 to $195 million for new infrastructure and $145 to $275 million for new trains
Estimated annual subsidy required: $8 to $18 million
Possible revenue from new fares: $2.3 to $8.5 million
Scenario #4 – Add a new stop to the existing Amtrak Northeast Regional line at T.F. Green Airport
Report summary: “Amtrak Northeast Regional trains would stop at T.F. Green Airport every 1½–2½ hours on weekdays and would be distributed throughout the day. MBTA commuter rail service would continue to serve the airport. Northeast Regional travel times would be 9 minutes to Providence; 49 minutes to Boston; and 3 hours to New York Penn Station…Additional analysis is needed to understand rail ridership potential at T.F. Green Airport.”
Estimated capital costs: $90 million for new infrastructure but no cost for additional trains
Estimated annual subsidy: A net, one-time subsidy of $3 million in the first year
Possible revenue from new fares: Depending on the frequency of stops at T.F. Green and whether or not other stops along the Northeast Regional line are shut down, a boost of 71,200 riders and $4.8 million in revenue could be possible. On the opposite end, Amtrak could potentially lose 77,200 passengers and $6.2 million.
The report is much more exhaustive of its analysis into each scenario, and there are multiple approaches possible for each scenario, including which trains to utilize (electric or diesel) and how many stops would be made at T.F. Green. Additional considerations include state and transportation agency jurisdictions, since multiple states and railroad agencies are involved in each scenario.
As of right now, the report stands only as a preliminary mass of data that can be subsequently crunched and analyzed by many different government agencies, committees and the public.
“This report provides the baseline information to develop a strategy moving forward,” said Stephen Devine, administrator within the RIDOT Office of Transit. “This report wasn’t the end all but it was a solid beginning.”
Devine said that the decision of whether or not to move forward with any of these scenarios would be a collaborative decision between the office of the Governor, state planning agencies and Amtrak, and would also require public information sessions with the general public.
“This report was about gathering the information and getting some numbers down so that intelligent decisions can be made going forward,” Devine said.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) expressed his pragmatic excitement about the report, and potential for an Amtrak stop at Green, through a press release that disseminated the report.
“Bringing a permanent Amtrak stop to the airport could help the state attract investment, create jobs, and enhance transportation options for Rhode Islanders and visitors to the state,” said Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD). “But it has to be done in a smart, cost-effective manner that builds on the significant investments we have already made.”
You can access the full report at www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L18775#p1_z5_gD.