June 2, 2015 – Grow Smart Rhode Island (“Grow Smart”) is a statewide nonprofit policy research and advocacy organization focused on promoting enduring and sustainable economic growth that capitalizes on Rhode Island’s many place-based assets. One of the principal ways we pursue this is by promoting responsible public investment in a 21st century transportation system that enhances our economy, safeguards the environment and provides Rhode Islanders with healthy and affordable transportation choices.
That’s why Grow Smart supports the Raimondo Administration’s bold initiative to raise significant new resources to support long overdue investments in our state’s critical transportation infrastructure, including mass transit. We believe the proposal to collect user fees from heavy trucks is fair and equitable based on the extensive wear and tear that heavy trucks impose on the state’s road and bridge system (according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, one fully loaded five-axle tractor trailer has the same impact to roads and bridges as 9,600 automobiles).
We also believe that such user fees for transportation enhancements are consistent with existing policy in several nearby states and would not represent a competitive disadvantage for Rhode Island, but instead provide a short and long term boost to the Rhode Island economy.
Grow Smart commends the Governor for including in her transportation initiative significant and sorely needed investments in our state’s bike/ped infrastructure and mass transit system. In addition to a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project to be considered as part of reconstructing the failing 6/10 Connector, we understand that the proposed RhodeWorks plan, now under development, includes a line item of $80M for transit investments still to be determined. We’re especially pleased that these investments are “to be determined” because we believe strongly in the principle of thoughtful and long-range planning as well as public participation in decisions about how best to invest limited resources for maximum return and community benefit.
So, how could the Administration’s proposal be further strengthened? We offer the following recommendations.
- To improve checks and balances, consider amending the language on p. 11 (42-13-8.8. Designation of toll bridges) so that the decision about which bridges to toll is not vested with just one individual. Perhaps the state Transportation Advisory Council (TAC) and State Planning Council would be appropriate entities to provide an opinion and/or to approve.
- To ensure that transportation projects are carefully vetted and aligned with long-range transportation and land use planning, consider adding language to p. 13 (42-13-8.14. Conformance to statute, rules, and regulations) reinforcing that the forthcoming RhodeWorks action plan will align with Transportation 2030 and RIPTA’s 5-Year Strategic Plan and periodic updates to same.
- Finally, we recommend that the forthcoming RhodeWorks action plan acknowledge, prioritize and integrate the Transit Hubs initiative which was approved by more than 60% of voters in the November 2014 election.
Grow Smart looks forward to contributing its policy and communications expertise to ensure that the Governor’s transportation proposal realizes its tremendous potential to achieve sustained economic growth in Rhode Island.