Providence would get a $76 million streetcar system to meet the city’s growing transit needs under recommendations in a report that was released by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority last week.

The street car system was the largest investment recommended in the authority’s Metropolitan Providence Transit Enhancement Study, which looked at future transportation needs in the metropolitan area.

Funding has yet to be identified for the $126.7 million of capital spending required, which also includes the cost of a proposed bus rapid transit system, expanded bus service, and more park-and-ride capacity.

The proposed transit improvements would represent a more than 50% increase in annual capital spending over 10 years, the report said. RIPTA’s proposed capital budget for fiscal 2011 through fiscal 2015 calls for average annual spending of $21.9 million.  

The proposed streetcar system would run within a roughly two-mile corridor in downtown Providence and connect major centers of activity, bus routes, and a train station. The transit line would include connection points that could be expanded into additional neighborhoods in the future.

The Public Transit Authority largely supports its capital program with federal funds and matching funds provided by the state.

The RIPTA report said those funds could be used to pay for the street car system but also suggested “implementing a locally funded 'starter line’ in order to more quickly complete and operate the project.”

Local funding options include public-private partnerships, lease equipment agreements, grant anticipation notes, revenue anticipation notes, or an infrastructure bank set up by the state from which money would be borrowed to finance development.

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