|Providence Station: Inadequate for the purpose|
|Figure 1: NEC and NH legacy alignment|
|Figure 2: NEC and NH alignments in DT Providence|
|Providence Union Station: Adequately sized, unusable|
|Figure 3. Providence commuter rail possibility.|
|The waiting room is a bit...small...for a major NEC station|
|Figure 4. Option A: Providence-state line tunnel|
However, this is a lengthy tunnel--the distance from downtown Providence to the state line is about the same as the length of the Philadelphia tunnel proposal I demolished at length some time ago. And while Providence's infrastructural need is greater than Philadelphia's, one look at the old NH freight bypass suggests it's not that much greater.
|Figure 5. Option B: Providence River tunnel|
But also unlike any other option, this one suffers from multiple shortfalls. First, it's the only option with extensive sub-water-table tunneling. The alignment is quite literally waterside. Unlike any other alignment, an entirely new intercity station site must be built--and the best place looks to be quite literally under the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck rivers into the Providence. Part of this alignment lies under semi-active port facilities. And finally, this alignment has a sharp curve that just will not go away. It offers no time savings over the existing Providence bypass.
|Figure 6. Option C: New East Side tunnel|
It is still, however, a deep bore tunnel.
|Figure 7. Option D: "Option-C-cheap"|
However, in some ways this proposal reeks of a penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude. Not only does it itself have the sharpest curve of all the proposals, despite its brevity, it also fails to ameliorate the lone sharp curve on the NH alignment--at Crook Point. It is perhaps better suited to regional rail than true HSR.
|Crook Point bascule bridge, abandoned 1976|
|Figure 8. All four proposals to the same scale.|
Ranking is somewhat subjective, but my primary criteria, in order of importance, are
- Option A. Cost: -. Length: -. Curvature: +
- Option B. Cost: -. Length: +. Curvature: -
- Option C. Cost: +. Length: +. Curvature: +
- Option D. Cost: +. Length: +. Curvature: -
|East Side Railroad Tunnel--West Portal|
|New Haven operations in MA and RI|
|Figure 9. Figure 3's core network|
Ultimately, while Providence's future is its own, what the New Haven left behind was a framework of easements that can provide it with excellent commuter rail. And what the Northeast Corridor needs today is HSR geometry. Hopefully we can do the right, the incremental thing--reactivating the substantial underutilized/disused infrastructure, while judiciously inserting HSR infrastructure where needed. This needs Organisation vor Elektronik vor Beton to happen, though--not the Beton-first mindset our transit agencies always seem to have.