New RIDOT director lays out road to recovery for aging infrastructure

RIDOT Photo

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) —  Ask any Rhode Islander about the condition of the roads in the Ocean State and you’re likely to get an earful.

Aging infrastructure not only costs the state a lot of money to repair, but it can also cost the driver a lot of money too. Eyewitness News sat down with the new director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation for his first formal interview to learn his plan to not only rebuild the crumbling bridges and patchy roads, but also how to pay for the repairs.

“We’re in a critical state right now,” said Peter Alviti, the new director of RIDOT.

The poor state of Rhode Island’s infrastructure has landed the state at the bottom of national rankings for years now.

In the latest study from the Reason Foundation, a non-partisan public policy research group, Rhode Island was 49th out of 50 states.

Crumbling Warren Avenue bridge
PHOTOS: The East Shore Expressway is one of many bridges deemed structurally deficient »

Rhode Island has 983 miles of major roads according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. 41 percent of which are in poor condition.

The Ocean State has more than 1,100 bridges. According to the department of transportation, only 21 percent of those are in “good” condition. One out of every six bridges is structurally deficient, while the national average is close to one out of every 10 bridges.

“I feel the need, for the sake of the health and safety of the people in the state, to go back in and have more focused attention on those bridges that are classified deficient,” said Alviti.

Alviti said his goal over the next 10 years is to lower the number of deficient bridges in the state below the national average. He also told Eyewitness News he’s focused on developing a better Providence transit hub, linking rail, bus and bike paths. The idea: take more drivers off the state’s aging roads.

“Make the links where people can actually move faster, cheaper, better, more conveniently with mass transit than they can with their own automobiles,” he explained.

Aside from all the construction outside, Alviti said he’s also rebuilding his department from the inside. He’s asked every employee to look for solutions in different ways that what’s been done before.

“The solutions that got us here are not the solutions that are going to fix these problems. It’s very apparent,” he added.

Rebuilding hundreds of bridges, not to mention construction like the multi-span Providence Viaduct and Route 6-10 connector, takes money. Alviti said he’ll consider everything from tolls and even an increased gas tax.

“Everything is on the table, every form of financing, every form of project delivery is on the table and we are pursuing them all.”

Alviti told us he and his team are still working on the specifics of their long-term plans in terms of projects and funding. Details will be announced over the next few months.

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