Rhode Island bill would shift money to roads, bridges

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/13/2014

A Rhode Island state lawmaker offered a plan to help the state dig themselves out of a hole in transportation funding.

Rep. Anthony Giarrusso, R-East Greenwich, introduced a bill to route vehicle fees to transportation. Specifically, H7325 would earmark $61 million in current Department of Motor Vehicles revenues for road and bridge maintenance.

Giarrusso said the state is notorious for its poor roads and bridges, and routinely ranks at the bottom of U.S. states for highway infrastructure.

“The Department of Transportation has set forth an ambitious program to get our roads and bridges back where they need to be,” Giarrusso said in a news release. “This is an effort to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in.”

State funding for maintaining roads and bridges is primarily funded through the state’s 32-cent-per-gallon fuel tax. However, Giarrusso said that better fuel economy and fewer dollars made available from the federal government have eaten into what’s available for the state to apply for roads and bridges.

“This proposal is not going to solve the entire problem, but it will help by earmarking $61 million from existing revenues at the Department of Motor Vehicles specifically for road and bridge maintenance.”

Giarrusso also acknowledged the shift would create a budget hole for state lawmakers to fill, but he said they have little choice if they’re going to “dig ourselves out.”

The bill is in the House Finance Committee.

House lawmakers already approved a separate bill that would help get local road and bridge projects done.

H7345 would allow cities and towns to borrow from the municipal road and bridge revolving fund without voter approval. Localities could only borrow up to 5 percent of their budget.

The bill awaits further consideration on the Senate floor.

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