80% of Raimondo’s Toll Plan Would Go to Routes 6 and 10

Monday, October 26, 2015

 

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The 6/10 connector is slated to get 80% of the $500 million revenue bond proposed by the state.

$400 million of the RhodeWorks infrastructure plan put forth by the Raimondo Administration, which is dependent on a $500 million revenue bond, would go towards a fraction of the state's roads -- less than 1%.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation confirmed that 80% of a $500 million bond, which would be funded by truck tolls according to their proposal, would go towards the 6/10 interchange project that has been years in the works. 

This is before the Administration attempts to secure another $400 million in matching funds for discretionary funding and a dedicated transit project on Routes 6 and 10.  

"The user fees will address the bridges to be tolled, including the 6/10 interchange," said Charles St. Martin with RIDOT.  "As a result of tolling, RhodeWorks will enable $400 million in funding for the 6/10 interchange."

"The issuance of the bonds will enable RIDOT to begin work reconstructing the 6/10 interchange – a project under design for more than 30 years that has never been funded," continued St. Martin. "The $500 million bond will be paid for by a user fee on large commercial trucks – the majority of which are out-of-state."

The Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA), who has been opposed to tolling since its proposal, weighed in on the breakdown of spending as proposed in the RhodeWorks plan.

"The Rhode Island Trucking Association is keenly aware of the financial details of the RhodeWorks proposal. Because the proposal was never properly vetted I’m sure there is plenty of confusion on the specifics with the general public," said Bill Fischer, spokesperson for RITA. "We understand the governor’s proposal calls for $400 million in expenditures on the Route 6/10 Interchange with another $220 million proposed for other statewide bridge repair."

"Interestingly, of the 22,054 trucks (Classes 8-13) that RhodeWorks estimates travel on the major federal roads only 12.8% (2838) travel on or over 6/10 related roads and bridges," continued Fischer. "The remaining 87.2% of trucks will be providing funds to pay for a project on 6/10 that will use up to 80% of the tolling revenue."

Fraction of State Roads

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State roads in Rhode Island. The 6/10 connector would be a fraction.

Rhode Island has over 900 miles of state roads, and was ranked as having the third worst urban roads in the country earlier this year. 

Moreover, Rhode Island has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the country.  As GoLocal's Russ Moore reported in May 2015, "Of the state's 766 bridges, 429 of them are considered deficient according to federal statistics. That's 56 percent of the state's bridges."

The state identified the need to address the 6/10 interchange in its prior "Better Bridge" program, but acknowledged it had to wait to pay for the plan.  

"The Interchange consists of 11 bridges – eight of which are more than 50 years old and in poor condition. Dating back to the 1990s, many of these structures have been strengthened by temporary shoring – a necessary measure that is now ineligible for federal funding. These bridges will continue to demand expensive emergency repairs," RIDOT wrote at the time

While the $400 million is earmarked towards the 6/10 interchange project, the DOT identified its plans for bridges in the coming five years.

"For bridges, this means RIDOT will be able to fix 453 bridges in the first five years. All projects to be addressed with funding from the RhodeWorks initiative are outlined in RIDOT’s 10-year transportation plan," said St. Martin.  The plan can be found here

“I am concerned that DOT is planning on spending $800 million to rebuild the 6/10 connector, adding a dubious dedicated bus lane which will need maintenance long into the future. RIDOT is challenged to maintain the roads that we already have,” said Representative Patricia Morgan, who in October along with the Republican Policy Group member issued a pay-go plan for infrastructure funding.

Proponents Continue to Push Private-Public Partnership

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"We hadn't known the percentage of the program that the 6/10 reworking would constitute, although we expected it to be substantial.  If  anything, the size of this one piece illustrates how easily it can be handled through a private partner," said Justin Katz with the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. "We know from the Gordon Proctor report that the RIDOT pushes an inordinate amount of its development work out to private contractors.  The great majority of actual construction work will be done by private contractors."

Katz warned of RIDOT's ability to oversee the program.

"Given the state's recent experience with RIDOT, Rhode Islanders could be forgiven for be skeptical of the agency's ability to handle such a substantial influx of money spread out across so many projects.  With RIDOT handling RhodeWorks, all of the risk for both the project and its financing will be on the shoulders of taxpayers.  If costs go up, we have no recourse but to find more money or reduce our expectations.  If revenue from tolls comes in below projections (which is what we expect to happen), Rhode Islanders will have to make up the difference," continued Katz. "Although investors in the RhodeWorks bonds will likely demand a higher interest rate because they won't be voter-approved general obligation bonds, the 38 Studios experience proves that the investment will be nearly a sure thing.  A private-partner can seek financing based on the very low risk that the state will not come through on its promised annual payments, but to the extent that the project expands, the risk falls on the partner and its investors."

RITA’s Fischer pointed out what the trade group saw as issues with the funding stream. 

"We are also aware the total bond request is $591 million," said Fischer. "The general public is probably not aware that the interest payments on that bond will cost another $563 million over the next 30 years bringing the total cost of the program to $1,154 billion. That’s billion with a “B. Also important to note that $91.9 million or 15% of the total bond requested will go towards payments for services not directly related to road and bridge repairs."

 

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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10.

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

52,678 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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9.

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

72,800 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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8.

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

72,800 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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7.

I-195 westbound over the Seekonk River. 

76,700 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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6.

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

77,800 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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5.

I-95 northbound and southbound over Wellington Avenue.

147,984 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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4.

I-95 northbound and southbound over Jefferson Boulevard.

156,400 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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3.

I-95 northbound and southbound over Amtrak.

159,200 daily crossings

The bridge is structurally deficient

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2.

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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1.

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

186,500 daily crossing

The bridge is structurally deficient

 
 

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