Road projects set for delays after state cuts

Road projects set for delays after state cuts

A repaving of Cumberland Hill Road scheduled to go out to bid this year has been postponed until 2024 due to cuts to the state’s 10-year Transportation Improvement Program. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – A recently announced change to the state’s long-term transportation improvement plans will have a significant impact in Woonsocket and North Smithfield, where several local projects are expected to be placed on hold due to statewide cuts.

Last week, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation announced $120 million in cuts over six years to the state’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a 10-year plan scheduled to last through 2027. According to RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin, the cuts are the result of a rejection of additional funding requests in the governor’s budget and not the disappointing budget projections that were recently announced for the first two years of the state’s truck tolling program.

“We have made the necessary changes to our 10-year plan and the TIP to assure that we fulfill our mission to repair the state’s structurally deficient bridges and keep these structures safe,” he wrote in a statement. “The decision to reschedule some projects affects other areas of our transportation program, most notably the pavement program and the bike program.”

On the list of projects set for delay is Cumberland Hill Road, a state road that Woonsocket Public Works Director Steven D’Agostino says has been a sore spot for city officials for several years. According to D’Agostino, the state allotted approximately $150,000 to repair sections of the road in 2015, but was scheduled to go out to bid for a full repaving in 2019.

“The road is in deplorable condition,” he said. “Even though it’s been patched, there are sections that are just horrible. The sidewalks need to be replaced and there are many deficiencies on this road.”

In the latest version of the proposed TIP changes, $180,000 has been cut from the project budget, with the start date delayed five years until 2024. D’Agostino said he learned of the changes during a meeting with state officials and the city’s interim Economic Development Director Scott Gibb last month.

“In my opinion, that’s very shortsighted, and it’s the opinion of Scott Gibbs and the mayor as well,” he said. “This is the main road to Highland Corporate Park, which houses the third largest company in the country (CVS).”

Other projects set for delays include improvements to Main Street and Social Street and improvements on Route 146A between Park Avenue and Greenville Road. A repaving of Mendon Road between Cumberland Hill Road and the state line was reduced by $3.9 million and pushed back from 2026 to 2027, though St. Martin noted the state is looking into performing a temporary patching before that date.

“We are aware of the pavement condition and we’re looking to see if we could make an interim repair,” he said.

In North Smithfield, the changes resulted in $7.7 million in cuts and delayed start times for repaving of Route 146 from Route 146A to the state line, as well as $6 million in cuts to projects along Route 102 and Greenville Road. A project along School Street saw an additional $1.7 million in funding in the latest version of the TIP but a delayed start time that will push it back to 2024.

Construction of the Blackstone River Bikeway will also be impacted by the changes, with shifting timelines moving start dates for some segments sooner and delaying others. As a result, a downtown segment running from Market Square to Cold Spring Park is now expected to start construction before a final segment running from the River’s Edge Recreation Complex. Work will continue as scheduled on a section currently under construction along Truman Drive.

According to St. Martin, the amended TIP plan prioritizes repairs to the state’s crumbling bridges, only 78 percent of which are currently rated structurally sufficient. Federal law mandates that 90 percent of the state’s bridges be structurally sufficient by 2025.

“RIDOT has amended the TIP in a manner that ensures the safety of the thousands of Rhode Islanders who travel our roads and bridges every day,” he wrote. “We are also under a federal mandate to have no more than 10 percent of our bridges rated structurally deficient. We will use our funds to accomplish this mission.”

The cuts, he noted, are in the form of a proposed amendment and have not yet been formally approved.

Comments

You can get free Narcan. Cut that silly funding and pave my roads. This is so backwards.

Yes, I also prioritize tires over lives.

You must REALLY love abortion, if you think so little of human life that you'd rather pave a road than save one.