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From: Bernie Wagenblast brwagenblast AT comcast DOT net
Date: Fri, 05 Apr 2002 06:15:27 -0500
Subject: Warwick, RI
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Warwick, R.I., Officials Tell State to Trim Train Station Project
Source: Providence Journal

Apr. 4--WARWICK, R.I.--Citing a precarious outlook for travel in the
post-9/11 era, most of the car-rental agencies at T.F. Green Airport have
told the state they are no longer interested in helping to finance a
$168-million train station and parking garage on Jefferson Boulevard.
Governor Almond and the state Department of Transportation weren't
taking no for an answer yesterday, but some public officials in Warwick were
urging them to take the rental agencies at their word and scale back the
project to the $32-million range.

Michael Grande, chairman of the Warwick Station Redevelopment Agency,
said he believed the fight to build the larger project had been waged and
lost. He urged the state to go back to its original plan of May 1998 and
build a modest station for $32 million in federal and state grants already
in the bank.

That plan did not include a people mover connecting the station to the
air terminal at Green, and did not include a 4,000-car parking garage,
mainly to house the rental agencies and their fleets.

Rep. H. Norman Knickle, a Warwick Democrat, said yesterday, "My
understanding is it's futile to continue to attempt to negotiate with the
rental-car agencies. If that's true, then it's time to move on and build the
train station. We're already two years behind schedule."

At DOT, Director William Ankner said Almond still supported building a
"consolidated intermodal transportation facility" on Jefferson Boulevard,
and "we are proceeding ahead on the assumption that this project is going to
go forward."

Not so the seven car-rental companies, which dropped out of the
project between Feb. 25 and March 13, in letters to Michael Cheston,
executive director of the Airport Corporation, and Richard Licht, the
corporation's lawyer and chief negotiator on the project.

Budget Car and Truck Rental said "the economic uncertainty at this
time is far too great."

Payless Car Rental said it "does not think it would be a good idea to
build the planned intermodal station."

National Car Rental "is not interested in proceeding."

Dollar Rent A Car said "it would not be prudent for us to continue our

Thrifty Car Rental "is not in favor" of building the combined

Enterprise Rent-A-Car "is not able to commit to moving forward."

Finally, Alamo described the project as "premature," suggesting "that
we wait" until the business outlook is clearer.

State and city officials have talked about building an Amtrak station
in Warwick since the new air terminal opened in 1996.

In May 1998, the late Sen. John H. Chafee obtained a federal grant of
$25 million to build the station about a quarter-mile west of the airport,
on Jefferson Boulevard. Initially, the DOT promised to open the station by
2001, but those plans were set aside as the project grew in scope.

The plan that the state pitched to the car-rental companies was to
integrate an Amtrak station into a 4,000-car parking garage reserved mainly
for the rental fleets. Air travelers who wanted to rent a car would take the
people mover to the garage and begin their highway travel from there.

Advocates said that would free up valuable space in the air terminal,
do away with scores of shuttle buses and ease traffic and pollution on Post

The rental companies would have been expected to pay for most of the
facility by charging a daily fee to out-of-town customers. Indeed, that fee
has been in effect since last July and has raised millions to pay for
designing a project that many are now saying is dead.

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian is scheduled to meet with Almond's staff
today on the project. "I want to find out where we stand," he said, before
deciding whether to join Grande in calling for an immediate groundbreaking
on a smaller station built with available funds.

Grande said yesterday that the long delays in building a station that
is affordable without the rental companies' involvement has done much to sap
private developers' enthusiasm for building in the 70-acre Warwick Station

"If we're going to build a train station, let's build it," he said.
"Let's stop talking about something that may not be possible. The major
assumption behind the Warwick Station redevelopment project was that there
was going to be a train station. To the extent that there is not a train
station, there is probably no need to have a redevelopment authority
overseeing nonexistent development."

"We want to know: Is there going to be a train station?" he said. "If
there isn't, then let's stop wasting everyone's time."

The Airport Corporation referred all questions to Joe Larisa, Almond's
chief of staff, who did not respond to numerous messages yesterday.

Licht was traveling out of state and could not be reached Tuesday or

Though Ankner defended the state's larger version of the project, he
said he had not seen the letters that seven of the nine rental companies
wrote in February and March, dropping out of the project one by one.

Avis and Hertz, which control about half of the rental business at
Green, have not voiced a final yes or no on the project.

The DOT has spent about $11 million of the $25-million federal grant
on acquiring three properties needed to build either version of the project,
and on cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination on two of them, the
Baylis chemical plant and the former Leviton parking lot.

Ankner said a small standalone train station can be built for what
remains of the federal and state grants, about $21 million.

But he insisted that scaling down the project is "not preferable."

"This is an important project and we are continuing to work with it,"
Ankner said. "Like all projects that are large scale we run into issues and
concerns and we generally have the ability to work them out and proceed."


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