Will It Intercept Traffic?

RIDOT map of RI and proposed traffic reductions from Exit 1 rest stop
RIDOT suggests that tourists will drive to Exit 1, park their cars, then take the bus to the beach.
Map from RIDOT Proposal.

Who, exactly, is going to leave their car at a highway rest stop and take the bus to the beach?

RIDOT asserts that people will drive to Hopkinton, leave their cars in a busy parking lot and take the bus to the beach. But they don’t provide any data to back up that claim. Existing data is easy to collect: there is already a park and ride lot at Exit 1, and it’s never full. This clearly indicates that people don’t behave the way RIDOT suggests.

According to the RIDOT proposal, the rest stop will:

serve as a park and ride and carpooling option for the Westerly beaches (Misquamicut) to relieve the constrained access roads and limited parking

Traffic and parking are challenges in Westerly on beach days, no doubt. Perhaps a $12 million investment can be made that will actually alleviate parking and congestion problems. Or perhaps alternative tourism activities, like a bike path from Richmond to Westerly.  It’d cost less, and it’d promote tourism and drive the local economy.

A highway rest stop at Exit 1 isn’t going to serve Rhode Islanders. It is more likely that the rest stop will serve New Yorkers on the way to Cape Cod who want to stop for gas and fast food. Ask RIDOT Director Peter Alviti who the rest stop will serve.  Ask him if he thinks that Rhode Islanders will leave their cars in Hopkinton and take the bus to the beach. Ask him if he rides the bus with his family to get to the beach.

RIDOT goes on to make other boasts. Here is a sample:

The project results in the following direct benefits:

  • Reduced congestion through the biggest bottlenecks along I-95 in the state and increased transit ridership:
    • reduced single occupant vehicle traffic on the congested I-95 corridor into Providence, commuters would have more travel options (RIPTA or carpool) that are faster and more convenient
    • the service plaza and bus hub could serve TF Green Airport, Newport, and Westerly
  • Improved safety:
    • commuter traffic coming into Rhode Island from Connecticut is intercepted before it enters the congested and accident prone segments of I-95 into Providence

RIDOT seems to think that that Connecticut and Hopkinton commuters are the cause for Warwick traffic. The truth is that there is existing infrastructure to meet that demand (Park and Ride lots are located in Westerly, Hopkinton, and Richmond). Congestion on I-95 in Warwick isn’t caused by the few local commuters, the heavy traffic into Providence is originating in West Greenwich, Coventry, Warwick, and Cranston.

It seems that a wiser tactic to solving congestion in Warwick is to locate a travel hub in that vicinity. Near the bustling Center of New England development in Coventry, or along Route 117 in Warwick.  Both of those areas have significant commuter congestion. Besides, the definition of a hub is a center, not the tip of a spoke.

If Providence congestion is truly caused by southwestern Rhode Island commuters, then I might propose an investment to extend commuter rail service to Westerly. It’d finally be affordable to take the train from Providence to Westerly and back (currently it’s $20 each way). It’d serve Rhode Islanders who want to visit the beach and Rhode Islanders who commute across the state to Providence.

RIDOT, instead, wants to spend $12 million in Rhode Island tax dollars to serve New Yorkers on their way to Cape Cod. It’s bad for Rhode Islanders twice: first it uses $12 million in public funds on a bad investment; second it operates at the expense of the economy in Hopkinton and Richmond.

Tell your representatives that the Hopkinton Rest Stop project is a waste of public money. Tell them that it aims to destroy the rural character of Hopkinton. Tell them that RIDOT’s plan is based on false assumptions, and tell them that it is bad for Rhode Island.

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