Washington, DC – Rhode Island has the highest percentage of deficient or obsolete bridges in America and is tied for the highest percentage of roads in poor condition, according to a report released yesterday by the White House. The report also estimates that 3,595 jobs in the state are at risk if Congress fails to extend federal funding for road and bridge projects – an issue which Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has been leading the charge on in the Senate. The U.S. Department of Transportation expects the federal Highway Trust Fund to become insolvent in August if Congress fails to act.
“Two of the biggest problems facing our state right now are our unemployment rate and our crumbling infrastructure, but we also have a unique opportunity to address both problems at once,” said Whitehouse. “Extending federal funding for road and bridge work will help make the daily commute safer for Rhode Island drivers while also protecting thousands of jobs. It’s one of the single most important investments we can make in our state’s future, and I’m committed to making sure Congress approves this critical funding in the weeks ahead.”
Whitehouse serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which approved legislation in May to reauthorize federal highway funding for six years. Earlier this month, he joined U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx for an event in Providence to highlight the need for federal highway funding, and last week he joined Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for a national media conference call urging Republicans in the House and Senate not to stand in the way of the funding. Meanwhile, the Club for Growth and Heritage Action – two influential conservative organizations – have begun advocating against a funding extension, with the Club going so far as to say that the Highway Trust Fund “shouldn’t even exist.”
On Friday Whitehouse will join Governor Chafee, Congressman Langevin, and others for an event in Narragansett to tour a bridge project that could be affected by the funding shortfall.
Both Houses of Congress are expected to vote on legislation this month to provide for several more months of full highway funding, with a debate on the longer six-year bill that Whitehouse helped craft in the EPW Committee likely to take place after the short-term extension expires.
The report released yesterday by the White House estimates that 41 percent of Rhode Island’s roads are in poor condition, and 57 percent of the state’s bridges are deficient or obsolete.