Calls Mount to Transform Rhode Island's State Transportation Infrastructure

The state could soon be going under a major upgrade.

Source : Wikimedia Commons

August 8, 2022

Author : Patty Allen

Residents and activist groups in Rhode Island are petitioning their to-be elected Governor in January to improve the quality of roadways and transportation infrastructure. 

Thirty-six civic and advocacy organizations have urged the candidates for governor of Rhode Island to support "bold changes to bring our state's transportation infrastructure into the 21st century."

The changes include:

  • Making the Department of Transportation less auto-centric.
  • Electrifying the MBTA's Providence Line.
  • Analyzing the climate impact of construction projects.
  • Allocating funds for snow removal from sidewalks and bike lanes.

The letter to candidates stated, "Rhode Island's outdated transportation system is failing to keep pace with the needs of our residents, economy, and planet. We believe that Rhode Islanders are entitled to a transportation system that meets their diverse mobility needs, reduces air pollution, improves local economic development, encourages the construction of affordable housing, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

The letter's primary request is that the incoming governor commits to fully funding the state's Transit Master Plan and Bicycle Mobility Plan.

GrowSmart Deputy Director John Flaherty, a state's Transportation Advisory Committee member, estimates that the state spends approximately $163 million annually on mass transit ($138 million on operations and $25 million on infrastructure).

To fully fund the Transit Master Plan, he estimated that the state would need to invest approximately $389 million annually ($234 million for operations and $155 million for capital).

Flaherty estimates that total spending on bicycle-specific projects would need to nearly triple to around $300 million to meet the objectives of the Bicycle Mobility Plan.

The groups that signed the letter include American Planning Association – Rhode Island Chapter, Acadia Center, Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Bike Newport, Clean Water Action, Environmental Council of Rhode Island, George Wiley Center, Housing Works Rhode Island, Latino Policy Institute, Providence Student Union, Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition, Rhode Island Transit Riders, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and the Working Families Party Rhode Island.

Rhode Island's transportation system is deplorable, and the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state a C- on its infrastructure report card. Rhode Island's economy depends on its transportation and infrastructure. There are 148 bridges and over 860 miles of highway in poor condition in Rhode Island.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is making a significant contribution in this regard, and based on formula funding alone, the state is expected to receive $1.8 billion over the next five years. 

Transit Forward RI, adopted by the State Planning Council in December 2020, is a bold and ambitious strategy to improve Rhode Island's quality of life. The Transit Forward RI initiative aims to increase mobility, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage active transportation, and boost Rhode Island's economy.

A plan of this scope will take time to implement, but Rhode Island is already implementing plan-recommended changes to accomplish the Transit Forward RI objective by 2040. Funding is in place for many plan components over the many years. 

If all goes well, commuters will witness speedier transit in dedicated lanes, investments in stops and regional hubs, and improved transit frequency.

In a previous Contractor News correspondence, we covered how the instrumental Rhode Island Pell Bridge was entering phase 2 of the project and the beneficial impact of this construction on the residents and commuters passing through the state. 

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Category : Department of Transportation Investment in Infrastructure State Government Freeways and Highways

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