At our annual Fall Dinner Meeting, the CIRI assemblage was updated on recent developments in infrastructure funding, strategies and execution on both the state and national levels. The November 8 event, held at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, attracted approximately 200 attendees from the CIRI membership. Featured speakers were:
Nick Goldstein • ARTBA
Vice President, Regulatory & Legal Issues
Nick Goldstein of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) spoke to the attendees on what transportation industry leaders were expecting in the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan, which was yet to be released.
Goldstein began by stating that, while President Trump has been promising a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, the sense was about $200 billion of that amount would actually be federal funding — with about $800 billion depending on private sector participation. The administration’s definition of the word “infrastructure” also appeared to go beyond roads, bridges and transit into areas such as broadband, hydroelectric and veterans hospitals.
“At ARTBA, we have been focused on finding a permanent solution for the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund,” Goldstein said. “We’re going to keep the pressure on (Congress) … reminding them the infrastructure bill should include some kind of Highway Trust Fund fix.”
On a positive note, Goldstein pointed to the fact that infrastructure was a frequent topic for candidates across the US during the 2017 election season. ARTBA counted a few hundred transportation funding measures on statewide ballots, 82% being passed through voter approval. The fact that the Highway Trust Fund is slated to run out of money in 2020, a presidential election year, should also pave the way for the HTF to become a hot-button issue.
The concluding portion of Goldstein’s presentation covered a variety of regulatory topics. Regulatory reform is a major focus for the Trump administration, and while it takes years to implement suggested changes, some of these efforts are beginning to bear fruit. For more details, including a Ripe for Regulatory Reform Scorecard, visit the Regulatory section of the ARTBA website.
Peter Alviti, Jr. P.E.
While citing the key roles played by Governor Raimondo and CIRI in helping to get the landmark RhodeWorks legislation passed in February 2016, Director Alviti spoke to the way the program has created an entirely new method for consistent and dependable funding of crucial transportation improvement projects in Rhode Island.
To highlight the rapid rampup and success of the project over the first two years, Alviti presented key statistics and data. By the end of FFY 2017, which ended on October 31, RIDOT had executed over 90 projects — for a total of approximately $170 million in value in FFY 2016 and $284 million in FFY 2017. RIDOT’s expectation for FFY 2018 was to put 49 projects in play totalling an estimated value of about $830 million.
“Another key development from all this activity is the addition of 3,700 new construction jobs during this two-year period,” Alviti said. “Projects like the Routes 6 & 10 Connector have been collecting dust on the drawing board for the last 30 years. We’re getting projects like these into motion, while putting thousands of Rhode Islanders to work.”
Other projects mentioned by Alviti included a long-awaited intermodal transit hub in downtown Providence, a new commuter rail station on the Pawtucket/Central Falls line, and the highly successful Providence-Newport Ferry. During its 2017 season from mid-June through October 1, the ferry transported 43,000 people while contributing approximately $2.5 million to the Newport economy.
Director Alviti also referenced logistical and quality improvements brought about by the major reorganization and revamp at RIDOT. The results of new innovative technologies being used include the replacement of two bridges in course of a single weekend, and another within a 36-hour timeframe. To ensure RI’s capacity to protect its infrastructure investments, 40 new maintenance positions have been created at RIDOT — augmented by a $27 million investment in its fleet and equipment. The agency has also initiated a $3 million highway safety plan, similar to the core RhodeWorks effort for rebuilding the state’s deficient bridges.
To review the most up-to-date detailed plan, visit the RhodeWorks section of the RIDOT website.