Providence East Side Railroad Tunnel

BostonBoy

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How about a tunnel that bypasses Providence Station entirely? have it between the tangent track in East Providence to the tangent track in Cranston and make the Airport Station the major stop for HSR? HSR trains between Boston and PVD would use the current route. If the commuter system goes electric. it would capture virtually all of the traffic between Bos and PVD anyway. The HSR trains that travel between Boston and PVD would actually be scheduled for the Providence/ n. Metro area- NYP WAS market and the trains that stop at the airport station would service the south county market.
 
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An old photo I took of the now closed off western end (next to and up behind the Mills Tavern on N Main Street) of the East Side Train Tunnel:
Providence East Side Tunnel West.jpg
 
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The old aerial photo below shows the route of the old East Side rail line leaving downtown. The old Union Station is in the bottom left corner. The eastern end of Kennedy Plaza is to its right along the bottom. The first Baptist Church of America on N Main Street is in the middle at the top. The WWI memorial (now in front the the Providence County Courthouse) is in center at its original location at a traffic circle that was built over the confluence of the rivers (the general area in front to the south of what is now the Citizens Bank HQ).

The East Bay Bike Trail today follows the path of this old rail line south of the Seekonk River mouth to Bristol.

Providence former east side rail route.jpg
 
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DBM

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The Depression-era Providence of HP Lovecraft.... the dingy shabbiness is pervasive, the somber despair is palpable. Warclouds over Europe darkening by the day; at home, seething labor unrest, the unmitigated brutality of Jim Crow, and the cramped, crabby, cold, collapsing cities of the Northeast ebbing vitality by the day as the exodus to the shiny new metropolises of the Desert Southwest accelerated. But hey, Superman Building's looking good!

[seriously though, what a great find, if depressing in terms of the obvious maltreatment of the river, lack of the delightful urban oasis that is Burnside Park and the Waterfire-sculpted river, and corresponding giant F You to pedestrians--ain't autotopia grand?!?]

[speaking of: looks like Waterfire dodged a bullet.]
 

Stlin

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Dang, I'd always wondered how they used that tunnel, and if there was ever a shot of reactivating it. That photo however makes it crystal clear it could only ever be used with an elevated structure through downtown. (50 plus years, maybe the density is there for an LRT through to East Providence, landing in the memorial reservation, continuing to Federal Hill? Probably easier to use the transit tunnel, and fork underground somehow.)
 
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MjolnirMan

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I've had similar musings about transit re-use. The most parsimonious rail connection would indeed be an elevated structure above Memorial Blvd (makes sense, as that's what it was designed for), and you could conceivably build a modern and attractive minimal viaduct that eventually descends under I-95 to reconnect to the NEC. This bypasses the new Amtrak station of course, but could be served by Kennedy Plaza and reclaiming part of the old Union Station property.

If you wanted to link to the new station itself, you could maybe have light rail come over an elevated structure across N. Main, over the currently-undeveloped property South of EDGE College Hill and Canal St, weave past One Citizens Plaza to the left or right, and descend to the parking lot near Moshassuck Ct to a culvert under the Avalon, connecting to the ground floor of the station parking garage - this COULD tie into the NEC but the grade change and turns might be a bit tough for current rail stock, so you could perhaps convert the bottom of the garage into a new light rail station connection, leading to the West and South of Providence.

The other possible solution is BRT use, if you redevelop the parking lot between the tunnel portal and N. Main into a ramp down. Of course, all of these options require the bascule bridge to the East to be in the lowered position, and also not a park/art piece.
 
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Just as an fyi - the still to this day active bus tunnel is also visible in the old photo. It is just to the right of the first Baptist Church of America that is in top center. The bus tunnel's other end comes out at the Thayer Street commercial strip by Starbucks.
 
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F-Line to Dudley

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I've had similar musings about transit re-use. The most parsimonious rail connection would indeed be an elevated structure above Memorial Blvd (makes sense, as that's what it was designed for), and you could conceivably build a modern and attractive minimal viaduct that eventually descends under I-95 to reconnect to the NEC. This bypasses the new Amtrak station of course, but could be served by Kennedy Plaza and reclaiming part of the old Union Station property.

If you wanted to link to the new station itself, you could maybe have light rail come over an elevated structure across N. Main, over the currently-undeveloped property South of EDGE College Hill and Canal St, weave past One Citizens Plaza to the left or right, and descend to the parking lot near Moshassuck Ct to a culvert under the Avalon, connecting to the ground floor of the station parking garage - this COULD tie into the NEC but the grade change and turns might be a bit tough for current rail stock, so you could perhaps convert the bottom of the garage into a new light rail station connection, leading to the West and South of Providence.

The other possible solution is BRT use, if you redevelop the parking lot between the tunnel portal and N. Main into a ramp down. Of course, all of these options require the bascule bridge to the East to be in the lowered position, and also not a park/art piece.
BRT (despite Gov. Chaffee studying that) is not going to happen, because the skipping-under of College Hill misses too many ridership catchments. Ditto for the streetcar proposal; that would use the current-bus/former-trolley tunnel instead. It's pretty much functionally restricted to RR use where you're jumping over the river without making any additional in-city stops.

A new elevated probably isn't likely to get approved because of the way it would have to S-curve right around the front of One Citizens Plaza to get around. That building changes the alignment considerably. You probably could tunnel under by plowing down from the west tunnel portal instead of up onto the old incline. The rivers are all artificially/modern-era channeled here and not deep, and Memorial Blvd. is an entirely new post-1990 creation under the footprint of the old elevated station complex so could be subwayed without onerous utility relocation costs. This is sort of what the NEC FUTURE study was crayoning for its short-lived East Providence bypass for Amtrak. We've talked anyway on this thread about how Providence Station would probably work better if it were integrated into Providence Place rather than in its current offset location. You'd just have a 'top' level @ PP for the platforms on the current alignment and a shallowish lower level for the Amtrak/bypass platforms, then tracks would merge together immediately west under the I-95 ramp spaghetti. A new fixed river crossing would probably be created near the Waterman St./Richmond Sq., with tracks curving slightly up to Cold Spring Point for hopping across.

It's totally build feasible, albeit at probably a billion dollars or more. It would really need that superduper HSR hook to muscle the fed money around for it, since RIDOT has no practical reason to pay its own way for its own use. Since the existing NEC alignment really isn't that slow and the bypass alignment is more of "more perfection" rather than solving a bottleneck, it's hard to see where the impetus is going to come from. Perhaps if the existing alignment got so congested with layered MBTA and RIDOT Intrastate commuter rail traffic and hosted a Fairmount Line-analogue "295 Belt" :15 Urban Rail line that ran north to South Attleboro with denser stop spacing (like +2-3 more infills than just Pawtucket) slots would get pinched enough that the bypass would come in handy for punting away all Amtrak traffic...but RIDOT's got an awful lot of Regional Rail buildout heavy-lifting to do in the meantime, so it's going to be a few decades before traffic thresholds like that are reached.
 

MjolnirMan

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BRT (despite Gov. Chaffee studying that) is not going to happen, because the skipping-under of College Hill misses too many ridership catchments. Ditto for the streetcar proposal; that would use the current-bus/former-trolley tunnel instead. It's pretty much functionally restricted to RR use where you're jumping over the river without making any additional in-city stops.
I still maintain that a single new excavated stop at/around the Brown Science Library, plus stops right at either tunnel portal, would probably be workable for LRT/BRT to serve College Hill appropriately, especially given the proximity to bus "feeders" coming through the nearby trolley tunnel.

You probably could tunnel under by plowing down from the west tunnel portal instead of up onto the old incline. The rivers are all artificially/modern-era channeled here and not deep, and Memorial Blvd. is an entirely new post-1990 creation under the footprint of the old elevated station complex so could be subwayed without onerous utility relocation costs.
I realize this was indeed formally studied, but I just get boggled at the grade change from the portal halfway up the hill to all the way beneath the river. Maybe it's just the pedestrian perspective, but it seems like a lot of vertical distance to clear in a short stretch, unless you start talking about a new tunnel partially UNDER the existing tunnel to ease the grade, at which point you're actually only "reactivating" part of the actual tunnel anyway and are partially building a new one.

Perhaps if the existing alignment got so congested with layered MBTA and RIDOT Intrastate commuter rail traffic and hosted a Fairmount Line-analogue "295 Belt" :15 Urban Rail line that ran north to South Attleboro with denser stop spacing
We can dream...
 

Riverside

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I still maintain that a single new excavated stop at/around the Brown Science Library, plus stops right at either tunnel portal, would probably be workable for LRT/BRT to serve College Hill appropriately, especially given the proximity to bus "feeders" coming through the nearby trolley tunnel.
I think this falls under "Maybe you could, but should you?", unfortunately. A surface stop at the portal would be perfectly useful, and then you just need to deal with getting to the river -- not an insignificant challenge, but not a huge challenge either.

The other problem with LRT through the East Side is.... where do you go once you cross the river? There are two corridors (Taunton Ave and Warren Ave), both of which would require some work to connect to, whether from the Henderson Bridge (a.k.a. the Red Bridge) or from Crook Point.

Map:

Screen Shot 2021-06-30 at 11.14.31 AM.png


But outside of those two corridors, the current RIPTA routes disperse out in all directions, and all at relatively low frequencies. Ridership data is hard to come by, but it looks like the 33 and 78 (both eight miles long) have the highest ridership -- but some of the other routes are also shorter (32 and 34 are both 6 miles local running in RI, plus express extensions to Seekonk Square, while the 35 is 8 miles).

(See ridership data here https://www.ripta.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/passenger_survey_results___final.pdf [date unknown, but appears to predate the R-Line], and here http://gcpvd.org/images/pages/mts/pdf/mts-final-report.pdf [circa 2008].)

My vague back of the napkin math suggests that 33 and 78 still overperform compared to the rest of the network... but it's hardly a slam dunk major difference.

My point is that the question of reusing the East Side Railroad Tunnel for LRT would be predicated on where you wanted the LRT to go once it crosses the river, and there is no obvious answer at this point.
 

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