The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) asked the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to rescind RIDOT'S application for a $9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant for the Rhode Island Travel Plaza and Transit Center.
The decision was made in consideration of concerns expressed by Hopkinton residents and sensitive environmental findings at the location RIDOT had chosen to build the center. The proposed location is along I-95, west of Main Street (Route 3) in Hopkinton. The letter requesting that the application be rescinded was delivered to the FHWA division administrator for the Rhode Island division.
Peter Alviti, RIDOT director said, “This was the right decision to make for several reasons. First, we wanted to do what was best for Hopkinton. We understand that the residents treasure the rural nature of their town and they want to keep it that way. Secondly, in light of the findings that came from the environmental site assessments and archaeological review there were other concerns. Finally, in our meetings with FHWA, it was clear that the environmental and social challenges of this project would make it difficult to go through the environmental assessment process in a timely manner.”
During the site analysis wetlands were delineated along several areas within the designated parcel. The property also is within a groundwater reservoir district and the proposed development would have been above an existing aquifer.
“All of this gave us pause,” said Alviti, “but most importantly our archaeological surveys showed that there were historical artifacts of great significance to the Narragansett Indians including three cemeteries.”
Because RIDOT had already budgeted $3 million for this project, a portion of those funds will be used to enhance the existing Welcome Center on I-95 which has garnered widespread approval from the motoring public and the truckers who use it since RIDOT reopened it last summer.
Part of the funds will be put towards installation of electrical pods that will allow truckers to plug in at night for both warmth and light. This will make the area more environmentally sound and more comfortable for the plaza users. RIDOT also will create additional parking bays for trucks. The balance of the funds will be put toward accelerated bridge reconstruction and repair.