RIPTA Board Approves Initial Planning for New Providence Bus Hub
January 30, 2024
PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will move forward with plans to develop a new bus hub in the state’s capital.
RIPTA’s board, via a unanimous vote at a special meeting Tuesday morning, approved a $16,874,374 contract with Next Wave Partners for research and design services for a new building and transit center in Providence.
The contract comes with off-ramps, according to John Chadwick, RIPTA’s executive director of procurement and inventory control. The preliminary planning comes in six stages, and RIPTA staff will have to seek board approval before starting each step of the process.
If the board finds Next Wave’s work unsatisfactory, RIPTA will only need to pay for the services rendered up until that time rather than the whole $16.8 million price tag.
The first step in the process, noted as “Kick-Off/Visioning” in the board-approved resolution, will cost about $1.4 million and is estimated to take about 72 days. It will include creating an outreach plan and initial site review.
Other steps include more detailed design and financial planning.
Board member Normand Benoit stressed that the new hub project would largely be funded by bond money and not RIPTA’s operational budget, which has already been stretched thin.
“It’s not like we’re choosing one or the other,” between building the hub and maintaining and improving service, Benoit said.
Benoit, who said he worked in downtown Providence for 40 years, said the Kennedy Plaza location may actually be a hindrance to increased transit use.
Part of Next Wave’s job in the preliminary project will be to find a location for the new hub. Both Dorrance Street and former Interstate 195 land have both been floated instead of Kennedy Plaza, where the current hub is located.
Board chair and state Department of Transportation director Peter Alviti said the new plan would take into account the way a new location would impact ridership and handle traffic.
“Public engagement is mentioned frequently” throughout Next Wave’s plan, Chris Durand, RIPTA’s chief financial officer, said during the Jan. 30 meeting.
Still, some transit riders who have fought against moving the hub from Kennedy Plaza and voiced concerns about the new project’s financial viability, said they were disappointed by the board’s approval.
“I am not convinced,” Patricia Raub, co-coordinator of the advocacy group Rhode Island Transit Riders, said after the meeting. In a statement she typed up and handed out, Raub called the project “a completely unnecessary new bus hub.”
In the handout, she wrote that she was concerned that a hub could be built far away from where riders need to go.
Longtime transit advocate and former RIPTA board member Barry Schiller called the questions asked by the board during the presentation on Next Wave’s proposal “softballs,” and wondered why the bond money couldn’t be used to improve all the existing hubs around the state.
RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian said the decision to focus on Providence was driven by what riders wanted.
Randall Rose of the Kennedy Plaza Resilience Coalition blamed a possible relocation on top state officials, saying that “no one has made a good case” for why the hub needs to move.