Public sounds off on Providence streetcar proposal

By: Rebecca Turco

Email: rturco@abc6.com

PROVIDENCE – People got to sound-off on the multimillion dollar street car proposal for Providence at a finance committee public hearing Thursday night.

22 people signed up to speak. Opinions were split.

Scott Wolf of Providence feels like the proposal is a piece in the puzzle of the revitalization of the capitol city. “It’s not the game-changer in and of itself, but it is one of the game-changes,” he explained.

Art Norwalk, a 50 year Providence resident, begged to differ. “There’s no reason we should, in the 21st century, be considering using that kind of system when much better forms of urban transit are available.”

The 100-million dollar streetcar project would be partially covered by a federal grant and state funds, while the city would have to come up with nearly $60 million of it, through tax increment financing. This basically means taxpayers would make the investment and the city would use revenue from that deal to pay for the investment itself.

“This is not unlike the disastrous 38 Studios deal, which Rhode Islanders are still paying for,” Donna Paolino of Paolino Properties expressed to the Finance Committee.

City Councilman David Salvatore likes the idea of a streetcar in Providence, but disagrees with how the project would be funded. “I don’t think our taxpayers should have to shoulder almost 60 percent of this project,” he explained.

City Planning Director Bonnie Nickerson touted a nine-to-one return on investment for the project. “Based on our projections, we know the investment into the street car is going to produce additional growth and development,” she told ABC6 News.

The Finance Committee will decide whether the proposal will go to the full City Council. There is no timetable for that at this point.

© WLNE-TV 2015