At our annual Spring Dinner Meeting at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, the main theme was the re-emergence of the Rhode Island economy from the effects of the pandemic — and the role our industry continues to play.
The pre-dinner speaking program began with a welcome by Mike D’Ambra, incoming CIRI president, who touched briefly on several topics. He later prefaced the annual presentation of the Henry J. Sherlock Scholarships by recognizing the members of the CIRI Scholarships Committee: Chairman David Costantino, Robert DiScuillo, Richard Chagnon and John Rocchio. The event’s featured speakers were:
K. Joseph Shekarchi
RI Speaker of the House
Speaker Shekarchi began by acknowledging CIRI and its members for their relentless efforts during the pandemic and beyond. With a nod to the successful 2021 CIRI voter-approval campaign that generated a total of $358 million in infrastructure funds, Shekarchi spoke to the continuing importance of our industry.
“The funding is improving our infrastructure as we continue to employ thousands of Rhode Islanders with good, high-paying, wage-protected jobs,” Shekarchi said. “Thank you for the infrastructure you deliver to our state. You’re bringing us back to a sustainable economy.“
Speaker Shekarchi then gave an overview of various bills being considered as the 2022 RI General Assembly was working toward its June 23 closing date.
“The biggest responsibility for me (as Speaker) is our state budget,” he said. The Speaker highlighted the need to wisely spend monies received for post-pandemic stimulus and enhanced unemployment funds — to replenish the state’s rainy day fund — and to be prepared for potential unseen difficulties in the future.”
Chief Engineer • RIDOT
The attendees were also addressed by Robert Rocchio, chief engineer for RIDOT, who congratulated CIRI members for rising to the challenge of the current intense workloads for heavy and highway construction.
“The people in this room have 259 projects pumping $3 billion into Rhode Island’s economy,” Rocchio said. “Together we have constructed or repaired 233 bridges that are structurally deficient or soon to be.”
Rocchio also spoke about federal funds the state has obtained via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). By receiving another $576 million via the IIJA, RIDOT has been able to accelerate its overall plan to address over 100 projects much sooner than expected. RIDOT also forecasts the ability to pay out about $500 million per year in construction expenditures over the next five years — a substantial increase over the $300 to $400 million expended in previous years.
In conclusion, Rocchio acknowledged Speaker Shekarchi, along with RI Senate President Domenick J. Ruggerio, for their valuable support of construction initiatives and the ongoing RhodeWorks program for infrastructure and economic development.”
To view the most up-to-date infrastructure plans and news, visit the RhodeWorks section of the RIDOT website at: www.dot.ri.gov/rhodeworks