For more than six years, RIDOT Director Michael Lewis has led the charge for adapting Rhode Island’s transportation system to the needs of the 21st century so that our state can be more competitive in the regional, national and global economy. We regret his departure very much and we hope that the transformation begun under his leadership will continue with Director-designee Peter Alviti, should he win Senate confirmation.
Mike Lewis often said that “transportation only works when it works as a system.” And as a member of the RIPTA board of directors, he pursued a fully integrated modern transportation system for Rhode Island, the second most urbanized state in the nation. He and his team were instrumental in the development of the transit hub proposal that earned 60% voter approval in the November bond referendum. He supported adoption of Rhode Island’s “complete streets” law in 2012 and then implemented internal contracting guidelines to ensure that road repair and reconstruction will consider design features that improve the mobility and safety for all users, whether pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders or motorists.
At RIDOT, he implemented a number of efficiencies and worked tirelessly to help business, civic and elected leaders confront the enormous funding deficit to address our state’s significant backlog of structurally deficient bridges and poor road conditions. He was a champion for responsible funding reform and a “fix-it-first” approach that was critical to passage of the Transportation Investment and Debt Reduction Act of 2011. That reform, together with the legislature’s approval last year of Budget Article 21, got Rhode Island off excessive and unsustainable borrowing, saving taxpayers millions and increasing our pay-as-you-go investments in roads, bridges and transit.
Mike Lewis served the residents and businesses of Rhode Island under three Governors – Republican, Independent and Democrat. He’s a consummate professional who’s worked effectively with a broad range of community organizations and local governments and is respected nationally by his colleagues, which led to him being elected President of the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO). He’s the kind of sophisticated, visionary and bold leader that Rhode Island needs more of to realize our substantial untapped economic potential. We wish him well in all his future endeavors.