May 15, 2014

Senate Committee Passes Major Bill to Fund Road & Bridge Projects

Legislation Includes Program Requested by Sen. Whitehouse That Could Help Spur Significant Investment in Rhode Island

Washington, DC – The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today passed a transportation funding bill that incorporates a Projects of National and Regional Significance Program (PNRS) providing for over $2 billion for investments in regionally critical infrastructure.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the EPW Committee, requested that the program be included, citing its potential to create jobs and grow the economy in Rhode Island.  

Under the bill that advanced today, PNRS would be a $400 million per year competitive grant program to provide grants of up to $50 million for nationally and regionally significant highway and transit projects.  In Rhode Island, the Viaduct Bridge and 6-10 Connector projects in Providence could qualify for funding.  

Overall, the new transportation legislation would bring in over $200 million per year in federal investment to Rhode Island over the six-year life of the bill.  It largely maintains funding levels established in the current transportation bill, MAP-21, which expires in September.

“Rhode Island still has the highest unemployment rate in the country,” Whitehouse noted in his remarks to the Committee.  “We are a long way from the bailout of Wall Street.  We are a long way down the pipeline from the boom of natural gas.  We are a long way from the big interventions like the auto industry rescue that helped bring back the economy in the Midwest.  But for us in Rhode Island, where we have some of the oldest roads and bridges in America, infrastructure investments can mean a big boost to our economy.  This is really important to my home state.”  

Providence’s I-95 Viaduct carries over 160,000 vehicles per day through nearly a quarter mile stretch of downtown.  It is 50 years old and has severely deteriorated, and includes cracked steel girders, degraded concrete, and wooden planks supporting cars and pedestrians above.  Another section of highway cutting through the center of Providence, the 6-10 Connector, is in such a state of disrepair that every one of its eleven bridges has been rated structurally deficient.

In 2012, Senator Whitehouse and the other members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation worked to secure a $10 million federal grant to begin the Viaduct project, but more funding is necessary to complete the northbound side of the highway. 

The transportation bill now awaits action before the full Senate.

To watch Whitehouse’s full remarks before the EPW Committee today, click here


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921