July 15, 2008

Senate Panel Approves $7.85 Million for Rhode Island in Transportation and Housing Spending Plan

Reed and Whitehouse Include Funding for Key Rhode Island Transportation, Housing, and Infrastructure Projects

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that the Appropriations Committee has approved legislation including $4.7 million in funding for Rhode Island transportation, housing, and infrastructure improvement initiatives they requested as part of the 2009 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) spending bill. The bill also includes $3.15 million that Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, secured for key programs throughout the state.

“With gas prices rising, it is important that we invest in transportation. Rhode Islanders know we need to do more to improve our roads, bridges, and transit system. I am pleased to have secured federal dollars to expand rail and bus service and upgrade the Pawtucket River Bridge,” said Reed. “This bill will help Rhode Island during these tough times by aiding our efforts to bolster local infrastructure, develop affordable housing options, and improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders.”

“Every dollar that we secure at the federal level to improve infrastructure and support public transportation helps to ease the financial strain that Rhode Islanders are experiencing as a result of high energy costs,” said Whitehouse. “I was proud to work with Senator Reed to obtain these funds, and I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that Rhode Island has the funds necessary to maintain and upgrade our transportation infrastructure.”

Reed and Whitehouse secured funding in the 2009 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill for several key Rhode Island projects, including:

$2 million for the Pawtucket River Bridge

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will use this federal funding to help replace the I-95 Pawtucket River Bridge (Bridge #550). The bridge is listed as structurally deficient and the state has closed it to heavy truck traffic in order to extend its service life until the bridge can be replaced.

$1 million for the Portsmouth Town Center Plan

Portsmouth will use this federal funding for engineering studies and a design that will address both safety issues and economic development in the area.

$700,000 for Providence Community Action

Providence Community Action will use this federal funding to purchase a building and develop twenty units of affordable and transitional housing for homeless families. Ten units will be 3-bedroom apartments and 10 units will be 2-bedroom apartments. Additionally, one floor of the building will be converted to a 10 bed dormitory style emergency shelter, with communal kitchens, bathrooms, and a living area.

$600,000 for the Nickerson Community Center’s Gateway to Independence Program

The Nickerson Community Center, a non-profit, social service agency in Providence, will use this federal funding to renovate four buildings and provide permanent rental housing for chronically homeless veterans and their families. These renovations will create 32 slots for transitional housing, another 30 slots for permanent housing units, and enable the program to provide its services to more people.

$200,000 for Rhode Island Senior Transportation

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is expected to use this federal funding to purchase vans to provide transportation for seniors in the towns of Johnston and Pawtucket.

$200,000 for Handicap Accessible Sidewalks in Warren

Warren will use this federal funding to improve sidewalks along Route 103, known as Child Street. Child Street is a main thoroughfare in Warren and serves the main pedestrian access route to the downtown. The sidewalks are currently substandard and unsafe.

Additionally, Reed secured funding in the bill for the following Rhode Island initiatives:

$1,345,500 for the South County Commuter Rail Project at Wickford Junction Station

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will use this federal funding to support the South County Commuter Rail Project at Wickford Junction Station in North Kingstown. The project will extend commuter rail service to southern Rhode Island and is estimated to garner 70 percent of the total projected commuter rail ridership between Providence and Westerly, RI. Commuter rail service is necessary to relieve increasing congestion on the I-95, Route 1, and Route 4 corridor, located in the fastest growing region of the state. This project will also improve air quality, safety, and strengthen the state’s transportation system. To date, Reed has appropriated $27.269 million for South County Commuter Rail Project at Wickford Junction Station.

$1 million for Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s (RIPTA) Statewide Bus Replacement

RIPTA will use this federal funding to support its Statewide Bus/Van Replacement program. This program is an ongoing effort to replace rundown vehicles with newer vehicles that are more fuel-efficient.

$500,000 for the Tiverton Public Library Land Acquisition

Tiverton Library Services will use this federal funding for land acquisition to construct a new, green library building. Tiverton has outgrown its current library, which does not currently comply with state and federal standards.

$300,000 for the International Institute of Rhode Island

The International Institute of Rhode Island (IIRI) will use this federal funding for building renovations at its Providence headquarters. IIRI, founded in 1921, is an independent non-profit agency whose mission is to enable all area residents, especially immigrants and refugees, to become self-reliant, invested participants of the community.

Passing this bill out of the full Appropriations Committee is a critical first step in the lengthy appropriations process, which may not be completed until next year. The bill must now clear the Senate and also be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. It then goes to the President’s desk and would have to be signed into law. President Bush has threatened to veto this bill as he did last year with other critical domestic spending packages.

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