State Report: Repairing RI’s Bridges, $40 Million Bonds & Improving Schools
Saturday, August 04, 2012
In perhaps one of the most positive State House Roundups to date, this week’s recap presents five news stories, which should inspire some hope in Rhode Islanders. First off, the state has received another federal grant to improve our struggling infrastructure. Secondly, it was announced earlier this week that voters would soon be able to decide if Providence’s decrepit roads will receive a face-lift.
Additionally, a new pilot program was launched in Providence to improve childhood well-being. Not to mention, the state has reported that hotel occupancy is way up, which bodes well for the state’s convention business. And lastly, the RI ACLU has begun probing into what state police are doing with your license plate data.
RI to get $3.3 million for I-95 bridge project
Just one week after the RI Transit Authority received a $1.22 million grant to renovate the East Side Tunnel and Kennedy Plaza, the state has obtained a second federal grant for $3.3 million. This time around the federal government is helping out the Ocean State to fund the replacement of the Pawtucket River Bridge on Interstate 95. The news was announced on Tuesday by the state’s congressional delegation.
The bridge, which was built in 1958, was originally designed to carry roughly 60,000 vehicles per day. Currently, the old and outdated bridge carries twice that amount. The $3.3 million federal grant is just a portion of what Rhode Island is set to receive. In fact, the federal government will pay for 80 percent of the $81 million project. The bridge is currently being built in stages.
According to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the new bridge will have a dramatic effect on the regional economy.
"The Pawtucket River Bridge is a critical part of the I-95 corridor and it’s important to the economy of the region that it is open to all traffic. This grant will help relieve the state of some of the financial burden of construction and will help move this project toward completion. Equally important, completing this project will ease noise and traffic congestion for Pawtucket residents," said Sen. Reed.
Providence voters to determine street repair plan
Providence voters will soon be given the task of deciding whether the city should borrow $40 million to repair city streets. The city council voted unanimously Monday evening to put Mayor Angel Taveras’ bond request on the Nov. 6 ballot, according to The Providence Journal.
Noticeably absent from the council’s decision is a proposal that would have given it authority to direct where a portion of the money would be spent. Mayor Taveras stated he was vehemently opposed to any such provision and threatened to veto the bond if it included the amendment.
Although Providence finished the last fiscal year with an $11 million deficit, Mayor Taveras argues that his administration has subsequently reigned in spending enough to put the city in a position to begin the proposed street repairs. Each of the city’s streets has been ranked in order of repair needs by an engineering firm, according to the mayor’s office.
Rhode Island ACLU wants to know what police are doing with license plate data
Do you ever wonder what law enforcement officials are doing with your license plate data? Well, the ACLU of Rhode Island does and it intends on investigating the matter. The RI ACLU, along with chapters in two dozen states, is currently asking police and state agencies how they are using data being obtained by automatic license plate readers.
Earlier this week the RI ACLU announced that at least one police department, Providence, is utilizing the new technology. As a result, the civil liberties organization has filed a public records request to discover what Providence police are doing with the data and if other city police departments are currently employing or plan on employing the technology.
According to the ACLU, use of this data gathering technology is gaining popularity around the country. Furthermore, it argues that the data may be stored indefinitely after it is collected from cameras mounted on patrol cars. Use of the technology has already been limited in Maine and New Hampshire.
National model for child well-being established in Providence
Mayor Angel Taveras and Gov. Lincoln Chafee have partnered with the Casey Foundation to announce a new partnership to adopt an evidence-based program aimed to improve the well-being and education of Providence’s youth. The program titled Evidence2Success is an innovative approach, which invests in proven methods to promote healthy child development in Providence.
The Casey Foundation, a private charitable organization that helps disadvantaged children throughout the U.S., chose Providence as the first site for Evidence2Success because of the city’s and state’s continued commitment toward improving the well-being of children in low-income areas.
"Young people need the positive influences of a loving family, healthy community and high-achieving schools to achieve their full potential. Many children also need the support of public systems to help their families in times of crisis," said Mayor Taveras. "Evidence2Success unites local efforts in working together to help children grow up healthy, ready for school and prepared for success in life."
Last week, Rhode Island finished 25th in a new study ranking childhood well-being. Despite finishing in the middle of the pack, the Ocean State was far behind every other New England state, which all finished in the top 10. In fact, our closest neighbors, Massachusetts and Connecticut, finished 2nd and 7th respectively.
Providence hotel occupancy soars, convention business increases
Lastly, a bit of good news for the Rhode Island economy. On Monday, the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau announced that hotel occupancy for June was 81.4 percent; the first time occupancy has been above 80 percent since 2004.
So what does that mean for Rhode Island’s economy. Higher occupancy rates are an indicator that the state’s convention business is on the rise. Martha Sheridan, Bureau President and CEO, that the rebound is primarily due to large conventions and sporting events attracting tourists to the city.
In June, the Netroots Nation conference, a political convention for American progressive political activists, brought thousands of visitors to Providence. Aside from the Netroots Nation convention, other noteworthy events included a triathlon and several business association gatherings.
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