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Barry Schiller: How would you spend $2.6B on Rhode Island transportation? Hearings coming this week!



The $2.6B is about how much the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will be spending in their four year plan as proposed in their Amendment 19. Note UpriseRI has reported on the RI Bike Coalition‘s opposition to proposed cuts in bike and pedestrian funding and I also have concerns about the $250M plan to widen I-95 northbound in Providence, but you can give your opinions at upcoming hearings:

For the I-195 “Environmental Assessment:
Wednesday August 14 6pm at Providence Career/Technical Academy,
41 Fricker Street

For the entirety of Amendment 19:
Tuesday, August 13 5pm at Narragansett Town Hall
Thursday, August 15 5:30pm at the Department of Administration Building

The Environmental Assessment is on-line here.

My concerns are in the form of these questions:

Why is the state financing by borrowing from future Federal highway allocations? Wouldn’t General Obligation Bonds have lower interest rates? Shouldn’t voters have a say before we incur debt as is required for General Obligation bonds?

Can we please ask a favor?

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Why is the $35 million voters approved in 2014 for transit hubs listed as a revenue source but there is no clear explanation as to what if anything it is being used for, and apparently no public process for determining how to use this funds?

As it is increasingly clear that climate change is a serious threat, that transportation is the highest emitting sector of greenhouse gases, and, with the state joining the regional Transportation Climate Initiative to reduce these emissions, and with total 4-year constrained transportation funding increasing by over $158M, why is the largely bike/pedestrian Transportation Alternatives program, already being implemented so slowly, being cut by about $17M, even though biking and walking is the closest to truly zero-emission travel?

To what extent are the Green Economy bonds voters strongly approved that were supposed to supplement the already existing bike program really being used for that purpose, rather than being used to fund projects already programmed?

As it seems evident to reduce greenhouse gas emissions we need to reduce driving, why do we project a need to accommodate ever increasing traffic on the I-95 viaduct?

Why should we keep spending so much to encourage more driving – for example the new I-295 Interchange facilitating Citizens Bank‘s sprawl-inducing drive-everywhere new “campus,” the full expressway 6-10 interchange rebuilt over some community opposition, and now the $250M proposal to widen I-95 north? Wouldn’t more lanes, faster traffic encourage more driving? Shouldn’t we at least wait to evaluate the Transit Master Plan, a draft soon to be released and then vetted, for which community groups have suggested a vision of expanded use of the existing rail corridor both for in-state travel on the North Kingstown – Pawtucket corridor with frequent fast electric trains (Rhode Island Rapid Rail) and for travel to metro Boston (Transit Matters) that along with better I-95 signage and implementation of a state law to reduce state employee commuting miles, might be the basis for a cheaper and less polluting alternative?

Will a wider I-95 require new overpasses on Smith Street and maybe Orms Street, and if so, is it reasonable to disrupt already slow traffic on those city streets, where those of us stuck in traffic in a car or bus are not asking for millions of dollars to speed up our trips? Shouldn’t drivers wanting to tear through the center of a city at busy times expect to be slowed just as those using Smith Street and other such streets do?

When looking at land use in Providence and noting all the land taken up by the 95/195 interchange, the 6-10 interchange, Route 6 and its interchanges with Dean Street and I-95, doesn’t it seem that is more than enough land already dedicated to moving high speed traffic through the city without widening the I-95 gash in the center? Wouldn’t widening I-95 by multiple lanes more thoroughly separate the sections on each side and make for an even more disagreeable experience for walking between Francis Street in the Providence Place area and the Kinsley Avenue/CIC complex by making an even longer walk underneath an even wider highway? And despite the Environmental Assessment that seems to claim otherwise, wouldn’t faster traffic and more lanes be noisier in the vicinity?

Shouldn’t we hold off on this proposed amendment until all such questions are answered?