On a sunny March day, Wickford Junction Train Station welcomed its first commuter train to its newly-finished platform. It was just a test run, but it was a long-awaited sight for the Cioe family.
Proprietors of the Wickford Junction plaza, the Cioes, have dreamt of a train station in town for decades since they bought the land in 1982. But for patriarch Bob Cioe, it’s a vision he’s had since 1959. Attending college in Boston while living in Rhode Island to save money, Cioe would take the 99 New Haven every day to and from class – doing his homework or catching up on sleep during the commute.
And he loved it.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is anticipating the station to be up and running the week of April 23, complete with grand-opening ceremonies – nearly 30 years after the Cioes bought the property.
Though it’s been a long road, Bob Cioe’s son Rob says they have taken time and great care in creating the station they want. If the parking garage – which can hold up to 1,100 vehicles – looks familiar, you may have seen its inspiration only a short ways down Ten Rod Road. According to Rob Cioe, the historic Lafayette Mill served as its aesthetic inspiration.
“We really wanted that village look for the station,” said Rob Cioe.
The building may have the village look on the outside, but inside its walls it boasts newer technologies and features – from energy efficient lights to heated and air-conditioned bathrooms to chargers for electric cars and more. The station will even have a coffee shop for commuters needing a caffeinated pick-me-up or bite to eat.
Tentatively, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) has 11 stops scheduled for Wickford Junction. There will be five morning trains – the first leaving Wickford at 4:50 a.m. and arriving at Boston’s South Station at 6:40 a.m. and the last leaving at 9:10 a.m. and arriving in Boston at 10:57 a.m. – and four evening trains – the first leaving Boston at 4 p.m. and arriving in Wickford at 5:41 p.m. and the last at 8:15 p.m., arriving at 9:55 p.m. There will also be two afternoon trains, said Cioe.
“I think a Boston commuter can use that schedule all day long,” said Rob Cioe.
Tickets to Boston will cost $9 one-way, with half off for students and seniors. Commuters to Providence will pay $5 roundtrip. With a $4 fee for the parking garage and a $5 roundtrip ticket, commuters heading to Providence will only pay $9.
“With gas at $4 a gallon, you can’t drive from Wickford to Providence for $9,” said Bob Cioe.
However, Providence’s public transportation system isn’t as robust as Boston’s. The Cioes are attempting to coordinate shuttle buses to transport commuters around the city.
It's been more than 50 years since he took the train to Boston every day, but Bob Cioe’s hoping others will love the experience just as much in 2012 as he did in the 1950s.
“My feeling was that once people got on the train, they’d like it,” said Bob Cioe. “I think the challenge would be to get them on the train and out of their ordinary routine.”
According to his son, some people are already prepping in anticipation of the train station's opening: one singles group has already made plans to use the train to go to Boston and Providence for its meet-ups.
With the expansion of Walmart and the incoming train station this year, the Cioes are hoping for big things at Wickford Junction. According to Rob Cioe, their company is considering adding a residential component to the center.
“This really is a huge step for South County,” said Rob Cioe. “We’re poised to show growth in North Kingstown.”
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