Gov. Raimondo wants to ‘accelerate’ plan to move buses out of Kennedy Plaza

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo has asked Rhode Island transportation officials to speed up a plan to move most of the buses out of Kennedy Plaza, but it remains unclear when the overhaul of the downtown hub will begin.

In an interview this week, Raimondo said safety remains her primary concern in a downtown area that has seen the tragic death of woman who was hit by a Peter Pan bus last month as well as a spike in nuisance crimes in 2016.

“I would like to move the buses out of Kennedy Plaza and I am directing my team to work harder to accelerate that,” Raimondo said. “I’m worried about safety.”

Reached Friday, spokespeople for the R.I. Department of Transportation and the R.I. Public Transit Authority declined to confirm a timeframe for an earlier move, but former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino said he wants to see changes as soon as possible.

Paolino, who owns property throughout downtown and chairs the board of directors for the Providence Downtown Improvement District, has been the leading voice in the business community for cleaning up the area in and around Kennedy Plaza.

Paolino has publicly proposed a ban on smoking throughout much of downtown, but the plan was opposed by Mayor Jorge Elorza. The city has already banned smoking in public parks, which Paolino and other business leaders downtown have blamed for pushing smokers out of Burnside Park and Kennedy Plaza and closer to their businesses.

“Do it now, get this thing done as quickly as possible,” Paolino said. “Even if it’s a temporary move. You’re going to save a life.”

While the state’s goal is to ultimately move buses closer to the train station and potentially build a second hub near Rhode Island Hospital, Paolino said he thinks one temporary solution could be near Allens Avenue.

“It would be a lot better than having the scrap metal yards there,” he said.

A spokesperson for Elorza declined to comment.

Separately, Paolino said he intends to introduce a comprehensive plan for reforming the downtown area at a press conference next week, but he declined to release details. He confirmed that he has hired prominent attorney John Tarantino to assist with his proposal.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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