Whitehouse: Federal money vital for RI road projects

Traffic drives through Providence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse says unless Congress passes the federal transportation bill, federal funding for Rhode Island road repairs will run out at the end of September.

“Because Rhode Island has borrowed so much money in the past to fund its highway program and has so much of its budget eaten up by interest, we are going to be one of the first states to have to shut down highway construction if the bill doesn’t pass,” Whitehouse said at a Friday news conference.

Whitehouse, joined by Governor Lincoln Chafee, members of the Rhode Island General Assembly and the Rhode Island DOT, said federal funding would enable the state to make much-needed repairs and improvements, and spur economic growth and job creation.

Since many roads and bridges in Rhode Island are rated “structurally deficient” or in poor condition, Gov. Lincoln Chafee said the federal dollars are vital.

“We can’t let these project go, have our construction people out of work. So, we’re counting on Congress to do the right thing,” Chafee said.

Whitehouse is hoping the Senate will approve a six-year transportation bill passed on May 15 by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which he is a part. His office said the bill “would bring more than $200 million per year in federal highway funding to Rhode Island from 2015 to 2020.”

Whitehouse said rebuilding the 6-10 Connector in Providence is the perfect example of how the federal funds could be spent.

“There are no guarantees. The world of earmarks is unfortunately over for now. So, this is a competitive grant and we will have to compete for it,” Whitehouse said.

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