Having developed a high-quality regional rail network focused on Providence, we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Figure 1 shows what it is.
|Fig. 1. Diagram of ultimate RRI operations + MBTA P.L. under current track alignments|
|Fig. 2. Desired RRI +MBTA P.L. operations.|
|Fig. 3. PA core network (Fig. 9 there)|
|Fig. 4. Providence Union Station|
|Fig. 5. Tight curve|
|Fig. 6. Like a giant middle finger sticking into the air|
|Fig. 7. I-95 alignment|
The biggest problem, however, is that of rethreading a reasonable facsimile of the old New Haven alignment through from I-95 to the East Side Rail Tunnel portal. While some of it is easy--there's a fairly clear station box from the Courtyard to the Woonasquatucket--much of it is difficult.
Chief among the difficulties are (a) those of weaving a rail line through the I-95/US-6/Memorial Drive interchange, and (b) dealing with One Citizens Plaza.
|Fig. 8. Weaving a rail alignment into Providence's core|
This means that the solution to (b) is to route the station's east approach through One Citizens Plaza's south, well, plaza. In place of the plaza, a lobby extension and/or other use would front the Woonasquatucket-Moshassuck confluence; minor takings would be required for the necessary curvature to return to the original alignment. (Unfortunately, those buildings are obviously historic, but since some idiot went and built an office building right in the middle of the old alignment, you're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.) This section would be built on a trestle in order to encourage integration of "ground rights" under it by adjacent owners.
|Fig. 9. New rail alignments in Providence's core|
Our final consideration is the station plant itself. We renovate and reopen the old Union Station waiting room and ticket offices, as well as provide a sheltered concourse in the old underpass; secondary platform accesses are on Exchange Street. The box, trestled, allows for active uses under it; the smallish, redundant greenspace cater-corner to Burnside Park--a beautiful common--would be eliminated in favor of TOD, as would the larger, also-redundant greenspace between the current Providence Station, Providence Place mall, and the State House greensward. (Among other things, development would better frame the State House along Francis St.)
*Much to my chagrin. I really wanted it to be sunken.
**One elegant solution would be to rebuild the interchange as one large surface roundabout, with routes feeding into it from US-6, I-95, and Memorial Drive.