By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — “The MBTA commuter rail from Providence to T.F. Green Airport is now boarding on track three,” came the announcement over the PA system at the Providence train station Monday morning.
A throng of top elected officials, transportation administrators and members of the media descended to the platform and stepped aboard the purple and silver commuter train for the celebrated 20-minute journey —marking one of the state’s most significant non-vehicle transportation project in more than a decade.
“This is a big day,” said Rep. Eileen Naughton, D-Warwick, as she sat in the train car with her grandchildren, Colin, 6, and Caitlyn, 3.
A strong environmental advocate, Naughton said the commuter rail extension means less pollution, fewer illnesses such as asthma and reduced traffic congestion. “We need to be encompassing environmental policy into all our state’s policies,” she said. “That’s how we keep people healthy.”
She looks forward to a new era in more sustainable transportation-focused housing, working and shopping. “This is the future,” Naughton said. “We have to build a better world.”
The new $267 million train station, parking garage and walking bridge to the airport is projected to deliver 245 passengers to and from the airport each day.
A one-way ticket from Providence to the airport station costs $2.25. The price is $8.25 each way from Boston to T.F. Green.
An extension to Wickford Junction, to be completed by the end of 2011, is expected to carry 1,669 daily riders.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Warwick station parking garage, Gov. Donald Carcieri said the airport connector was an important piece in comprehensive transportation planning. “Planes, trains and automobiles — that’s what it’s all about,” he said. A shout from the audience reminded the governor that some folks still get around on their own two feet. “And pedestrians,” he added, with a laugh.
Travelers and commuters have plenty of transportation options at the new Interlink hub, which includes a RIPTA bus hub, car rental center with parking for 1,800 rental vehicles as well as 450 commuter cars.