PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In the past three weeks, the harsh weather has been challenging residents around the region — including outgoing Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis.
Governor Gina Raimondo announced on Tuesday that Lewis will be stepping down and that new leadership changes will be made to ensure that a smooth transition takes place. His resignation goes into effect on Feb. 27.
Before coming to Rhode Island, Lewis worked 23 years in Massachusetts. He said he had just finished his job as director of the Big Dig when he got a call from Governor Don Carcieri, who offered him an opportunity he just could not pass up.
Lewis started in March of 2008 and he said that perception of RIDOT was not so great at the time. He aimed to change that.
“We had to work on changing public attitude about transportation and that meant changing how we do work,” he said.
At the time, RIDOT was focused on growing the public transportation system by building more infrastructure.
According to Lewis, he is most proud of working with the legislature on fixing a funding system that was broken.
He also thinks that Governor Raimondo is well-suited for the job that is ahead of her.
“More work needs to be done, we still need to find more money to invest in our infrastructure. I think Governor Raimondo is well poised to take advantage of that and really build on those successes.”
But no matter how many changes are made, Mother Nature still dictates and presents her own challenges. Between the 2010 floods and the recent blizzards and snow storms, DOT crews have had their hands full.
“You can work together as a team when natural disasters strike. You’re ready for it and you know what to do as soon as it hits. That’s what you saw over the course of the last three weeks; there was a lot of snow we had but traffic was not really impeded,” he said.
Lewis has been the director for 7 years and that he plans to “take stock” and “build on” what he has learned through his time in Rhode Island.
So far he does not have any big plans after leaving the office, but he does plan to take a vacation.