Bond approval urged for Rhode Island roads

| Friday, October 15, 2004

Rhode Island’s highway head warned this week that many of the state’s road repair plans would be blocked if voters failed to approve the transportation bond issue on next month’s ballot.

Transportation Director James Capaldi spoke at a news conference in Providence Oct. 14 where a highway industry group said the state’s roads and bridges are in poor or faltering condition. The Road Information Program said Rhode Island has the second-highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges – 24 percent – in the nation.

The group said that 53 percent of the state’s roads are faltering, with 15 percent needing immediate repair.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation does not dispute the findings. Capaldi said told local media the state is barely able to maintain its roads and bridges.

He urged passage of a $66 million transportation bond issue on the November ballot that would allow the state to do more repairs. The bond would also allow the state to qualify for another $378 million in federal transportation funding for bridge, road and other projects.

Without the bond issue, the state would have to find matching money elsewhere, if it could. If unsuccessful, Capaldi said, it would lose the federal financing.

The other source of matching money is the state tax on gasoline and diesel – now 30 cents per gallon – but it is not considered a likely source of additional revenue.

Capaldi noted the state already has the highest gas tax in the country with the diesel tax among the highest nationally. “It would be politically difficult” to support an increase, he said.