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Advocacy groups, developers propose their own all-in-one RIPTA transit hub

This area is being reimagined as a new all-in=one RIPTA Transit Hub. (Contributed){ }
This area is being reimagined as a new all-in=one RIPTA Transit Hub. (Contributed)
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The plans to rip out the RIPTA bus terminal at Kennedy Plaza in Providence and split it up into three smaller hubs elsewhere has been met with a lot of resistance.

So some private and public advocacy groups have come up with a plan of their own.

The nonprofit group the Providence Foundation, backed by developers, wants to see an all-in-one new Rhode Island Public Transit Authority hub built across from Family Court in Providence, the three blocks from Dorrance, across Orange and Peck, all the way to Dyer Street.

Donald Powers, of Union Studio Architecture, came up with the artist's renderings.

"As an architect and urban designer, it's kind of close to my heart," says Powers, on a windy wet November Friday at the proposed site.

Buff Chace, a Providence developer and property owner, "brought together a number of us who were willing to lend our particular expertise to making a counter-proposal," to the one that currently exists, picked by the state, with little or no public input.

Voters approved $35 million in 2014 to build a centralized new hub near the current Amtrak station in Providence by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

Last year, a three-hub RIPTA bus terminal scattered throughout the downtown was proposed by RIDOT, eliminating the Kennedy Plaza location, but met a lot of resistance from Grow Smart Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Transit Riders group. The latter still feels the current Kennedy Plaza location is the best. Patricia Raub, a co-ordinator with the non-profit, said they'd be willing to support the new Dorrance Street proposal if there would be full funding and full public input on its implementation.

But this new centralized all-in-one proposal is estimated to cost $77 million, six stories above with affordable housing, retail on street level, and bus access underground.

"The primary idea is that you get all of the transit operations in one place, undercover, to make it a much more enjoyable situation," adds Powers. "We're hoping that, just as an idea, it generates some momentum for people to round the corner and make it reality."

Gov. Dan McKee reportedly likes the concept, but not the cost. However, in the federal infrastructure bill, passed by Congress and awaiting President Biden's signature, $270 million is earmarked for Rhode Island public transit.

"As many people who know more about this than me have said, 'this is the moment.' There's funding available. The real issue is consensus. If there's consensus, that assumes that the politics have been solved," adds Powers, "and I think we're a long way from that."

A previous version of this story stated all the non-profits were in favor of this Dorrance Street proposal, which is not the case.

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