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Rhode Island Has Third Worst Roads in U.S.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015


An analysis of the costs of "poor" urban roads by state, by the Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham; RI ranked third worst overall for poor roads behind DC and CA.

Rhode Island was recently ranked as having the third worst urban roads in the U.S., with 45% of major urban roads in the state classified as being in "poor" condition by a national transportation research organization.

In a recent look at TripNet analysis of Federal Highway Administration data for each state by the Washington Post, Rhode Island was above only California and Washington, DC for the condition of urban roads.  According to the analysis, 28 percent of the nation's major roadways -- interstates, freeways, and major arterial roadways in urban areas -- are in "poor" condition.

"The worst roads in America are in Washington D.C., where 92 percent of our major roadways are rated as poor," wrote the Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham on June 25.

"But D.C. is a special case, since it is not a state and doesn't have vast stretches of highway like most places in the U.S. do. So among the real states, the worst roads are in California where 51 percent of the highways are rated poor," continued Ingraham, who previously worked at the Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center.  "Rhode Island, New Jersey and Michigan all have "poor" ratings of 40 percent or more."

Neighboring Connecticut is listed as being a have 33% of urban roads in "poor" condition; Massachusetts, 20%; the sunshine state of Florida ranked lowest for poor roads, at 7%.

Addressing the Issue

The data comes at a time when Rhode Island is wrestling with how to deal with crumbling infrastructure -- Rhode Island ranks as having the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the country at 56%.   Governor Gina Raimondo's plan to toll trucks as part of her proposed RhodeWorks program failed to clear the General Assembly -- for now.

Slides: See Structurally Deficient Bridges in RI BELOW 

"The worst thing we could do is try and toll our way out of it,"said Rhode Island State Representative Patricia Morgan, of the toll proposal. "Even some of the proponents admitted the cost would be passed along to to the consumers.  Rhode Islanders are taxed enough already."

Morgan and Rhode Island House Republicans had introduced a measure to include the necessary $60 million in infrastructure funding in the state's budget.  While unsuccessful, Morgan said she hasn't given up on the prospect.   

"I haven't stopped on that proposal, we're working to identify spending that isn't critical. At some point we have to prioritize our spending," continued Morgan. "General revenue comes from Rhode Island taxpayers - so lets's not even talk federal money, that's less than 2% of our general revenue. If you borrow it, you're just digging a deeper hole."

Raimondo's RhodeWorks plan touts it will create about 11,000 job-years over the next 10 year, and "save taxpayers about $950 million in projected future costs by addressing the problem now instead of waiting."

The General Assembly adjourned for the year prior to the House taking action on the tolling proposal, following Senate approval of a measure. 

Costs of Repair

In addition to comparing states' urban roads, Ingraham used TRIP data from the American Automobile Association, the Federal Highway Administration to determine how much drivers spent, on average, on maintenance due to bad road conditions. 

Rhode Island was listed at $637 for annual repair costs, behind DC and California, as well as New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Michigan -- but still ranking among the most expensive. 

The highest listed was DC at $1,042, the lowest was Tennessee at $278.

The Rhode Island gas tax recently increased by one cent on July 1, based on inflation indexing that came out of the 2014 General Assembly - however the federal gasoline tax has remained at 1993 levels. 

With funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund currently set to expire on July 31, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse touted the recent approval on June 24 of a transportation bill in the EPW committee -- which would see an increase in federal funding for Rhode Island. 

The six-year EPW bill would "boost the funding provided to states by more than $2.7 billion in FY 2016, a more than 7% increase, with additional increases over the remaining five years to account for inflation.  Rhode Island, which received $211 million in FY 2014, the last full year of authorized highway funding, could expect to receive $226 million next year under this bill," according to Whitehouse's office. 

The bill would provide a total of $2.4 billion over six years for the Assistance for Major Projects Program, which would be delivered to states through competitive grants. 


Related Slideshow: RI’s Most Dangerous Bridges

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association recently released a list of the most traveled, deficient bridges in each state. In Rhode Island, those bridges were: 

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US-6 eastbound and westbound over US-6A/Hartford Avenue.

52,678 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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RI-146/Ed Dowl Highway over RI-246/Charles Street.

72,800 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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RI-146/Ed Dowl Highway over RI-15/Mineral Spring Avenue.

72,800 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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I-195 westbound over the Seekonk River. 

76,700 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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I-95 northbound and southbound over RI-2/Quaker Lane.

77,800 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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I-95 northbound and southbound over Wellington Avenue.

147,984 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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I-95 northbound and southbound over Jefferson Boulevard.

156,400 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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I-95 northbound and southbound over Amtrak.

159,200 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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Broad Street over I-95 northbound and southbound and the P&W Railroad.

179,600 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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Interstate 95 northbound and southbound over US-1 (Elmwood Avenue).

186,500 daily crossing

The bridge is structurally deficient


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