“I didn’t want the day to go by without stopping and talking to you guys,” said Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti to the half dozen protesters that held signs at a politician rich 2021 RIDOT Construction Season Kick Off press event. The protesters were there to advocate for a plan for public transportation in general and Kennedy Plaza specifically that did not make using the buses more inconvenient for people. (RIDOT’s current plans for Kennedy Plaza were called “…the epitome of oppression, exclusion, classism and racism!” by Dwayne Keys, Chair of the South Providence Neighborhood Association.)
The event was planned by Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee and attended by the entirety of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation (Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline) as well as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey and Representative Jay Edwards also attended the press conference.
Five activists held signs at the event, speaking briefly with Senator Whitehouse before the event got underway. During Governor McKee’s speech, the activists were joined by Space Transformation Station aliens, carrying images of a Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA) bus and of riders who would be negatively impacted by RIDOT’s proposed dismantling of Kennedy Plaza. Senator Whitehouse took a photo of the aliens with his iPad.
It was after all the politicians had their turn at the microphone that Alviti approached the protesters, who were led by Liza Burkin of the Providence Streets Coalition.
“Contrary to what appearances may be and contrary to the discussions that have been out there, we are listening to you,” said Director Alviti.
“Great!” said Burkin.
“We’re taking every one of your comments, your suggestions, your criticisms, and I mad it a point to make sure that our team at RIDOT is integrating all of it into whatever we do,” said Director Alviti. “We’re relaxing the schedule. We’re going to make room for more public comment. More formal public comment that interacts directly between us, and all of you.”
“Great,” repeated Burkin.
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“We don’t have a final design,” continued Director Alviti. “We’re in preliminary design and it won’t become final until after we’ve had an opportunity to talk to all of you.”
“Just so we’re clear, we want to spend the bond money too,” said Burkin, referring to the 2014 Bond referendum passed by voters to improve public transportation across the state.
“No, No,” said Director Alviti. “It’s not just about spending money. It’s about getting it right.”
“Yeah, absolutely,” agreed Burkin.
“It’s about creating a future for our transportation system here in Rhode Island,” continued Director Alviti. “And that’s where my main concern is. It’s not just kind of putting a Band-Aid on things and correct things for now but to create a platform that we can go into the future with. The way that we’re doing with the rest of this. [Referring, I think, to the projects highlighted at the press conference.]”
At this point a moving automobile interrupted the conversation, and the conversation moved and became harder to hear.
Amy Glidden, an activist with the Rhode Island Transit Riders explains why activists were out at the press event:
- RIDOT Director relaxing schedule on Kennedy Plaza break up, making room for public comment
- Save Kennedy Plaza! say riders and advocates at protest against RIDOT/McKee plan to destroy it
- RIDOT’s “bewildering” response to Kennedy Plaza plan TITLE VI civil rights complaint
- House Finance considers budget amendment to save Kennedy Plaza
- Governor McKee dodges questions about his support for the dismantling of Kennedy Plaza
- McKee budget fully funds Raimondo / DOT plan to dismantle Kennedy Plaza
- Raimondo’s multi-hub bus plan violates principles in the Transit Master Plan her administration just approved
- Title VI civil rights complaint filed against RIDOT/RIPTA plan to break up Kennedy Plaza
- American Planning Association of RI says RIDOT/Raimondo multi-hub bus plan is harmful to people of color and people of lesser means
- Tech and procedural problems plague PVD City Council hearing on multi-hub resolution
- Raimondo and Elorza push ahead with multi-hub bus plan despite the objections of riders
- At RIPTA Board meeting, bus riders testify against the planned destruction of Kennedy Plaza
- Opponent’s march against Raimondo’s plan to break up Kennedy Plaza
- Community groups rally to oppose RIDOT’s Multi-Hub Bus Plan and the deconstruction of Kennedy Plaza
- RIDOT faces strong opposition to multi-hub plan at public meeting
- Local transit advocacy groups and other orgs oppose RIDOT bus hub plan
- With climate change looming, why is Rhode Island making public transportation less convenient?
- Governor Raimondo’s Multi-Hub Bus System plan
The press event was to kick off the RIDOT 2021 Construction Season.
Here’s the full video and the press release Governor McKee’s office put out about the event:
Governor Dan McKee today joined U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti, Jr. to kick off the start of RIDOT’s 2021 construction season. The event was held under the Providence Viaduct, a sprawling structurally deficient bridge in our state’s capital city.
The $265 million Providence Viaduct Northbound project is one of RIDOT’s largest construction projects. It will replace a 1,300-foot bridge that carries more than 220,000 vehicles a day, making it the busiest stretch of highway in Rhode Island. It also will rebuild 10 bridges and correct inefficiencies, congestion and safety issues along this part of I-95 thanks largely to a $60.3 million INFRA grant secured by Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation.
Including the Viaduct, RIDOT now has 34 projects under construction, including 129 bridges. This year, the Department expects to have a total of 50 projects under construction, including 146 bridges with a total project cost of $1.4 billion.
“Infrastructure has always been a crucial component of Rhode Island’s economy, and it will be essential to our state’s economic recovery,” said Governor Dan McKee. “These projects will not only create good paying construction jobs, but also safe, updated and resilient infrastructure for our residents and businesses. I thank our Congressional delegation for helping us secure these federal funds. I look forward to continuing to improve and invest in our infrastructure to create strong communities and improve the quality of life for hardworking Rhode Islanders.”
“Rhode Island’s bridges and roads get a lot of wear and tear. They have long been in need of repair and I’m pleased to deliver a sustained increase in federal investments to enhance our transportation network. These projects are about more than asphalt and steel beams – they’re about making long-term infrastructure improvements that benefit communities and better connect people to jobs and opportunities,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee. “These projects will improve safety and efficiency while reducing congestion and emissions. And new federal funds will put people to work this spring and summer and spur future economic growth by bringing more jobs, businesses, visitors, and commerce to Rhode Island.”
“The overhaul of the Northbound Viaduct is the centerpiece of RIDOT’s 2021 construction season,” said Senator Whitehouse. “I developed the INFRA Grant Program to launch major job-creating infrastructure projects like the reconstruction of the Northbound Viaduct, and I’m thrilled that Rhode Island secured more than $60 million from the program. The Viaduct will be transformed into a modern throughway with the capacity for hundreds of thousands of vehicles to safely and smoothly cross each day.”
“I was so proud to be with Governor McKee, Director Alviti, and my Congressional colleagues today to mark the start of construction season. Together, the millions of dollars we secured for Rhode Island will make the I-95 corridor safer and less congested for the 200,000+ drivers that use the Viaduct every day,” said Congressman Langevin. “While today was an important milestone to celebrate, our work is far from over. I’ll continue fighting in Congress to repair our aging infrastructure and create more good-paying jobs for Rhode Island.”
“Rebuilding our infrastructure is key to restoring the middle class,” Congressman Cicilline said. “These projects, made possible with federal funding, will create good paying jobs for Rhode Islanders to repair our roads and bridges. I’m grateful to join RIDOT in celebrating this kickoff today.”
“Here we go with another year of road and bridge construction happening in all corners of Rhode Island,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. “We are putting billions of dollars of improvements into the ground now with some long-awaited projects supported by more than $430 million in grants secured by our Congressional delegation. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
This year marks the fifth year of the landmark RhodeWorks program. To date, RIDOT has overseen 224 projects with a total investment of $2.6 billion. This included work on 322 bridges. Under RhodeWorks, RIDOT has completed 171 projects, including 167 bridges.
In addition to the Providence Viaduct Northbound project, highlights of the 2021 construction season include:
- Route 6/10 Interchange – RIDOT is entering its third full year of construction on this $410 million project, RIDOT’s largest. It will address 11 bridges in total, replacing seven structurally deficient bridges. The project also features construction of the critical “missing move” to connect Route 10 North to Route 6 West – which may open by the end of 2021. RIDOT has completely removed traffic from five of the seven deficient bridges and has partially removed traffic from another. The project will finish in fall 2023.
- Henderson Bridge: Demolition is underway on the westbound lanes on this $84.4 million project. By replacing this bridge which spans the Seekonk River from East Providence to Providence, RIDOT will reduce its statewide structurally deficient bridge area by 12 percent. The Henderson Bridge and Henderson Expressway were overbuilt as they were originally constructed as part of an unfinished highway. When finished in summer 2025, the bridge will feature two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane, as well as 2,500 feet of separated bike/pedestrian path infrastructure. The smaller footprint will require less maintenance and will free up almost 33 acres for potential development and recreational use.
- Washington Bridge: RIDOT expects to select a design-build team for a $70 million project to rehabilitate the portion of the Washington Bridge that carries I-195 West traffic from East Providence to Providence over the Seekonk River. In addition to rehabilitating the bridge, the base technical concept includes an additional through lane to better accommodate mainline highway traffic and the high volume of traffic entering the highway from Veterans Memorial Parkway, Warren Avenue and Taunton Avenue ramps. A new exit ramp in East Providence will provide a direct connection to Waterfront Drive, a major area for future economic development on the East Providence waterfront, and an additional safe and convenient way for commuters to access the East Side of Providence. The existing Gano Street off-ramp will be retained. Pre-construction activities should begin this summer and the project will take four years.
- Route 37 Bridges: Work is underway on 15 bridges on Route 37 from Post Road in Warwick to the Pontiac Avenue interchange. The project will make improvements to ease congestion and improve safety at the Pontiac Avenue interchange ($58.9 million).
- Pawtucket/Central Falls Train Station and Bus Hub: Construction is underway on the $58 million project and trains are expected to start service in summer 2022 with an estimated 520 daily boardings, attracting ridership from Rhode Island and nearby South Attleboro where the MBTA recently closed one of its stations.
- Providence-to-Newport Ferry: Service will resume this summer on this popular alternative to driving and parking in congested downtown Newport. The ferry has carried more than 175,000 people in its first five years.