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RI Transit Riders: The Kennedy Plaza bus tunnel is ‘a bad idea’



The recent proposal to tear up part of the Kennedy Plaza area to construct a bus tunnel is a bad idea. RI Transit Riders is troubled to learn that top Rhode Island officials are considering spending tens of millions of dollars for this unneeded tunnel project. Voters in 2014 approved a $35M bond to improve transit in Rhode Island, but the current plan uses much of this bond money for a tunnel project in downtown Providence which does not seem to improve transit at all, and it may even make transit worse. The bus tunnel proposal is backed by downtown real estate developer Joseph Paolino, who has a troubling record of suing the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) and working in opposition to bus riders.

We hope that Governor Gina Raimondo and other top state officials will drop their support of Paolino’s project, which was developed without public input. Rhode Islanders only learned about the project this morning, after news leaked of a secret presentation on the subject to the Providence Foundation with which Paolino has close ties. Although officials have been unwilling to give us any details on the project, it will disrupt downtown Providence for bus riders and everyone else.

We hope this project is not used to further skimp on bus berths in downtown. One RIPTA employee speculated that the purpose might perhaps be to put a few bus stops into the tunnel itself. But that’s a terrible idea, which would cause problems with fumes and would lead to increasing flooding problems. Putting bus stops down in a tunnel doesn’t help the bus system at all.

When taxpayer money is supposed to be used for transit, RI Transit Riders believes it should be used to improve our transit system – that will help our economy and is a great way to improve the climate. This mini-Big Dig is far from helpful for Providence traffic or for Rhode Islanders who need to use buses, and it’s time to stop spending taxpayer money just so real estate moguls can get a better view.

[From a press release]