- Associated Press - Monday, June 29, 2015

WEST KINGSTON, R.I. (AP) - A $41 million project to build new platforms at Kingston train station and an additional section of track so Amtrak’s high-speed train can bypass regional rail service will create new jobs and attract businesses to Rhode Island, state officials said Monday.

Gov. Gina Raimondo said improving the state’s infrastructure is necessary for the state to make an economic comeback.

“If Rhode Island is going to be competitive and have a good business environment, we need good infrastructure,” Raimondo said.

The state’s congressional delegation and transit officials joined Raimondo at the Kingston station for the project’s groundbreaking. Construction will begin in July and is scheduled to be complete next summer.

The state Department of Transportation is partnering with Amtrak to build the 1 ½ mile track that will allow the Acela to bypass regional trains, thereby shortening its already faster commutes.

The project is being funded by $26 million in federal grants and $15 million from Amtrak.

The funds will also pay for the construction of two high-level platforms, which transit officials said will improve efficiency in the boarding process and provide accessibility to passengers with disabilities.

Officials said they hope the improvements will be an incentive for expanding the commuter rail in the future. The commuter rail, operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, goes as far as North Kingstown, about 10 miles north of the Kingston station.

The Providence-Warwick metropolitan area has the highest commute time for workers who take public transit of any medium-sized metro area, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Public transit advocates point to a public bus system that must service the entire state as one reason for the high commute times.

“It’s not acceptable that our commute times are longer than other regions, and this project today is precisely one that’s designed to reduce that,” Raimondo said.

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