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House Finance considers budget amendment to save Kennedy Plaza

“Back in 2014, 60% of Rhode Islanders voted to pass this $35m bond to improve the vital role of mass transit across Rhode Island,” said John Flaherty, Deputy Director of GrowSmart RI. “Our concern is the potential that bond funds may be used in a way that brings harm to the transit system and to the thousands of Rhode Islanders who rely on it to get to work, to school, and to go about their daily lives.”

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The plan supported by Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to destroy the Kennedy Plaza bus hub and scatter bus transfers across three locations throughout downtown Providence depends on funding approved by voters in a 2014 transportation bond question. The bond question was approved by voters to improve the Kennedy Plaza hub – not make public transportation less convenient, but this has not deterred support for the current plan among state officials, which was developed and is being advanced without the inclusion of even one person who uses public transportation.


A rally, PLAZA FOR THE PEOPLE! has been planned for this coming Saturday to protest the dismantle of Kennedy Plaza:

The current plan is opposed by the Providence City Council, transportation advocacy groups, social and racial justice groups and neighborhood associations. The plan is the subject of a Title VI racial discrimination lawsuit and the American Planning Association of RI has stated that the plan is harmful to people of color and people of lesser means.

The money authorized by the 2014 bond, which has sat unused for seven years, cannot be used unless the Rhode Island General Assembly extends the expiration date on the bond. Last Thursday the House Finance Committee heard testimony on Governor McKee’s proposed extension of the bond date, contained in Article 1, Section 18 of the State Budget. Over 50 people submitted written testimony opposed to extending the expiration date unless the following language is added:

“Per the 2014 Bond Referendum question, funds may only be utilized to fund enhancements and renovations to transit hub infrastructures. Therefore, no bond funds may be utilized to dismantle or otherwise deconstruct the state’s primary transit hub in Kennedy Plaza.”

Four people testified to the same by telephone, including John Flaherty, Deputy Director of GrowSmart RI.

“Back in 2014 60% of Rhode Islanders voted to pass this $35m bond to improve the vital role of mass transit across Rhode Island,” said Flaherty. “Our concern is the potential that bond funds may be used in a way that brings harm to the transit system and to the thousands of Rhode Islanders who rely on it to get to work, to school, and to go about their daily lives.”

This pile of testimony came because the RI Transit Riders, The Providence Streets Coalition and GrowSmart Rhode Island reached out to their memberships and asked them to contact the Finance Committee and insist on this language. The groups provided a sample letter that included the suggested amendment.


See also:


Over 50 sent written commentary, some based on a form letter provided by the transportation groups, some not. Here they are:

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Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

atomicsteve@gmail.com