The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today released a 10-year transportation vision for the state of Rhode Island. This follows a vote last night by the State Planning Council's Transportation Advisory Committee to transmit RIDOT's 10-year plan, along with other materials, to communities for their review and consideration. The plan is available online at www.dot.ri.gov/news.
The plan, based on the Governor's RhodeWorks proposal, positions Rhode Island to become only the third state in the union to adopt a 10-year planning approach to transportation. When combined with sweeping organizational changes at RIDOT, it will accelerate Rhode Island's economic comeback and provide Rhode Islanders a world-class transportation system.
The detailed, project-by-project plan calls for a $1 billion surge of additional investment in the state's transportation infrastructure, primarily focused on bridges. Rhode Island has the worst bridges in the nation. Under the 10-year program, Rhode Island would reach the federal minimum standard of 90 percent structural sufficiency for bridges by 2025 – seven years ahead and $1 billion less costly than what existing funding levels could achieve. This asset management approach is at the very core of this 10-year plan and is what creates the savings.
"Plan your work and work your plan, that's what we're doing at RIDOT," said Director Peter Alviti Jr. "A predictable and reliable capital program is a critically important part of putting RIDOT's house in order and the state's roads and bridges back into good shape."
The 10-year plan identifies $800 million for funding for the long-delayed 6/10 interchange project, which has been in design for over 30 years, while providing a new Bus Rapid Transit feature. It also includes additional funding beyond what is possible with current resources for transit projects ($80 million more), highway improvements ($30 million more) and bike and pedestrian upgrades ($37 million more), while providing $212 million for traffic safety improvements and $112 million for maintenance and repair of drainage structures.
The 10-year plan will be updated every year and replaces the previous planning process that produced a four-year plan every four years. The new approach quadruples public input into statewide transportation planning. Additionally, the plan is built on realistic funding resources that provide communities with greater assurance that a project planned in a particular year will, in fact, be built in that year.
The plan must be approved by the State Planning Council as part of the statewide Transportation Improvement Program and by the Federal Highway Administration. A new plan is required to be in place by October 1, 2016 in order to have continued access to federal funding.
Federal approval of the plan is contingent on legislative action on the Governor's proposed RhodeWorks initiative, which includes authority to impose a user fee on large commercial vehicles that cross the state. Large commercial trucks are responsible for over 70% of the vehicle-cause damage to the state's infrastructure, yet currently pay only 20% of maintenance costs. The majority of the large commercial vehicles traveling on the state's roads and bridges are registered out-of-state.
The plan also provides the framework for the various efficiency initiatives being implemented by RIDOT. The Department has instituted new cash flow management and asset management models that will provide consistent funding to construction contracts. It will limit its dependence on consultants, lower administrative costs, and bring certain operations in house including bridge inspection, striping and winter maintenance to save money over the course of the next decade. Additionally, RIDOT is building a culture of accountability with the creation of a new Division of Project Management. This division will be charged with oversight and management of all projects from initial design through final completion to ensure they are completed on time, on budget and at the highest quality.