Transportation

Will the proposed multi-hub bus plan require RI to pay back past Federal grants?

Also: Black Lives Matter RI PAC calls on Governor McKee to “create a committee made up of leaders in the community that represent the best interests of the people who use public transportation every day in the city of Providence.”
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Published on March 29, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

In 2016 the United States Department of Transportation sent a notice of outstanding debt and demand for payment to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in response to the City of Cleveland proposing the permanent closure of bus lanes in downtown’s Public Square. As a result of this planned closure of bus lanes, the US DOT demanded $12 million from the City of Cleveland, “which represents the amount of Federal grant funds for the transit facilities, equipment, and infrastructure financed under…” the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA).

Now GrowSmartRI is asking the Federal Transit Administration if Rhode Island might be on the hook for similar debts and demands for payment as the McKee Administration charges ahead with plans to dismantle Kennedy Plaza in an effort to drive the homeless and working people out of Kennedy Plaza in service to downtown real estate owners.

In a letter to Peter Butler, Regional FTA Administrator, John Flaherty, Deputy Director of GrowSmartRI asked for “clarification on the amount of federal capital improvement investments that may be subject to satisfactory continuing control and possible repayment.”

“If they dismantle Kennedy Plaza in any way or discard it,” said Deputy Director Flaherty to UpriseRI by telephone, “then there’s a provision for the Feds to reclaim that money.”

Though the amount of money the Federal Government might seek will almost certainly not be $12m, it may be as much as half that amount, speculates Flaherty. The letter seeks to determine how much money the state may be on the hook for.

The controversial multi-hub transit plan being advanced by the McKee Administration is the subject of a Title VI complaint, and there are no transportation advocacy groups or social justice or neighborhood groups in Rhode Island that support the plan, which was done without the input of any transit riders.

In related news, the Black Lives Matter RI PAC just sent an open letter to Governor Daniel McKee regarding the Kennedy Plaza plan on Monday. In the letter, BLM RI PAC Executive Director Harrison Tuttle called on Governor McKee to “create a committee made up of leaders in the community that represent the best interests of the people who use public transportation every day in the City of Providence. If created, the committee and your administration will work directly with our communities to ensure the best possible plan moving forward. We hope that we can work together and make public transit in Kennedy Plaza the best it can be for the benefit of everyone.”

Executive Director Tuttle took the reins of the BLM RI PAC when former executive director Corey Jones was hired away as an advisor to Governor McKee.


Here’s the full text of the BLM RI PAC letter:

“BLM RI PAC and BLM NE PAC would like to address the plan to break up the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus hub in the Kennedy Plaza project. This plan to dismantle Kennedy Plaza and distribute the buses across downtown is a detriment to riders, especially elderly, disabled, students, and BIPOC riders which will add more time to daily transportation. This current plan does not reflect the wishes of the communities and people who are most affected by this. Other organizations, such as the Providence Streets Coalition and many others have been advocating against this plan for years. By this dismantlement, people will have to learn new places to wait which will create inconvenient new schedules in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic that has left Rhode Island residents that use Kennedy Plaza without a job and some homeless. Now, more than ever, it is important that we find solutions to improving public transportation, which this plan does not accomplish.

“We are aware that you have a lot on your plate as the new governor, which is why our organization is calling for you to create a committee made up of leaders in the community that represent the best interests of the people who use public transportation every day in the city of Providence. If created, the committee and your administration will work directly with our communities to ensure the best possible plan moving forward. We hope that we can work together and make public transit in Kennedy Plaza the best it can be for the benefit of everyone.

“Sincerely,

“Harrison Tuttle, Executive Director BLM RI PAC and BLM NE PAC”

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