Senators to submit package of transportation bills



STATE HOUSE, Providence – Several senators plan to introduce a package of transportation and road maintenance bills tomorrow. The bills are aimed at smarter road repair processes, assisting municipalities with repair of city and town streets, improving service and oversight of transit, and preparing for increased usage of electric vehicles.


The first bill, introduced by Sen. Robert Britto, is aimed at better aligning projects so that roadways aren’t dug up multiple times. It would require utilities to coordinate with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to develop a comprehensive plan that aligns planned state and utility projects.


“Too often, we see examples of a newly repaved roadway being dug up again because of an unrelated utility project,” noted Sen. Britto (D – Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket). “This is not only an inconvenience to local businesses, residents, and motorists. It is also an extremely inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. We can do better. A little coordination will save money and result in longer useful life of the roadway.”


Sen. Britto’s bill, the Utility Repair Act, would require utilities to identify immediate and longer-term needs and align the timing of their projects with RIDOT projects in the same area, so the same roadway isn’t dug up multiple times. Further, it prohibits utilities from passing along the cost of road repair to ratepayers, providing financial incentive for coordination with RIDOT.


The second bill in the package, sponsored by Sen. Samuel D. Zurier, builds upon the Governor’s budget proposal to provide state assistance for municipal road repair projects, with additional parameters.


The bill creates a Rhode Island Municipal Transportation Infrastructure Program to provide state grants to help municipalities address roads, sidewalks, and projects related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. No municipality would be required to participate. Those cities and towns that do participate would be required to submit data to RIDOT outlining all of their local roadways and their conditions.


RIDOT would be charged with developing an equitable formula to award grants to cities and towns, which would be required to provide a 30 percent match to the state grants. RIDOT would assist communities with the development of the roadway database and provide training for compliance with program requirements.


The Governor’s budget proposal is seeded with $20 million in State Fiscal Recovery Funds. Additional funding could be provided through appropriation or bonding.


“Municipalities often operate on very tight budgets. Providing state assistance with road repair projects will help in a way not currently available to cities and towns, improving our progress towards a goal we all share: safe, quality roadways and walkways in our communities,” said Sen. Zurier (D – Dist. 3, Providence).


The third bill is intended to improve accountability and delivery of transit services. Sponsored by President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, the proposal would shift responsibility for maintenance and development of transit services, currently overseen by the Rhode Island Pubic Transit Authority, to RIDOT in a new, consolidated transportation department.


“Quality transit is vital to our economic goals and quality of life in Rhode Island. We need a visionary transit department led by professionals who are accountable to the public. The director of RIDOT answers directly to the Governor, and serves with advice and consent of the Senate. There is no good reason that a service as vital as transit should be handled by a quasi-public instead of a transparent, accountable state agency,” said President Ruggerio (D – Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).


The final component of the transportation package being submitted today is aimed at better preparing the state for the rapid growth of electric vehicles on the road. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lombardo III, would require that new and expanded parking lots include a certain percentage of electric vehicle charging stations.


New parking lots, and lots that undergo an expansion of 50 percent or more parking spaces, would be required to include electric vehicle charging stations according to the following ratio of parking spaces to minimum charging stations:


6-10 spaces: 1 station.

            11-25 spaces: 2 stations.

           26-45 spaces: 3 stations.

            46-65 spaces: 4 stations.

            66-85 spaces: 5 stations.

            86-105 spaces: 6 stations.

            106-150 spaces: 7 stations.

            151-200 spaces: 10 stations.

            201 or more spaces: 6 percent of total.


“Drivers will be reluctant to purchase electric vehicles if they are worried about where they’ll be able to charge them,” said Sen. Lombardo (D – Dist. 25, Johnston). “This legislation helps address that issue, ensuring wider availability of charging stations and better positioning our state for the coming EV revolution.”