Rhode Island's Congressional Delegation today announced that the state will receive new federal funding to help replace the aging Providence Viaduct -- a critical stretch of I-95 in Providence. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) will receive a $10 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the project, which will support badly-needed construction jobs in the state.
The Viaduct carries I-95 for nearly a quarter mile through downtown Providence and supports over 160,000 vehicles daily. It was built in 1964 and is badly deteriorated. The entire delegation signed a letter to the USDOT supporting the state's application for TIGER grant funding. According to RIDOT, fixing the Viaduct will cost an estimated $140 million.
"This federal grant will help fund the critical work of replacing the I-95 Viaduct in Providence," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who brought U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to Providence to view the Viaduct in February and has lobbied hard to secure funding for the project. "At a time when too many Rhode Islanders remain unemployed, investing in projects like this is a smart way to support good jobs for construction workers in our state and improve the safety of our highways for commuters."
"Fixing the Providence Viaduct is critical to Rhode Island and the region. With limited funding available, this new TIGER grant puts the project on the right track and will help get more Rhode Island construction workers back on the job," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped secure $500 million for the TIGER grant program in the Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation Appropriations law. "I was pleased to work with Senator Whitehouse, who brought Secretary LaHood to Rhode Island to get a firsthand look at the Viaduct. While it won't resolve all our transportation challenges, this $10 million is good news for Rhode Island and everyone who travels up and down 95."
"This funding is welcome news for the thousands of drivers who count on the Viaduct's safety every day and for the many construction workers who will be able to get back on the job to perform the repairs," said U.S. Rep. James Langevin. "However, we have many other roads and bridges across the state that will only be fixed through passage of a long-term transportation funding bill. I continue to implore my Republican colleagues in the House to bring up the bipartisan Senate-passed bill to lower the unconscionable 14 percent unemployment rate for construction workers and allow our state to address urgent infrastructure needs, which get more expensive the longer we wait."
"The single most important priority for our state right now is job creation, and I am proud to join with Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin to announce these federal funds that will help us employ more Rhode Islanders in well-paying jobs while advancing the important repair work to the I-95 Viaduct," said U.S. Rep. David Cicilline. "Today's announcement not only highlights the tremendous value of the TIGER program in repairing our infrastructure and getting more people back to work, it also underscores the urgent need for passage of the long overdue transportation reauthorization bill. Along with the delegation, I will continue to press for immediate passage of a transportation bill that will help support thousands of Rhode Island jobs and fix our crumbling roads and bridges."
"I am pleased to have worked with the Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation to obtain this grant to help fix the Providence Viaduct, which is a critical component of our Interstate system and provides a direct route for vehicles travelling on I-95. This TIGER grant will accelerate the project and guard against future travel restrictions in the heart of downtown Providence," said Governor Lincoln Chafee, who strongly supported the state's application to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"Receiving this grant is great news for motorists and taxpayers alike," RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. "It allows us to begin this project sooner and with less impact to our overall program, letting us stretch our limited resources further while replacing this vital link on the Interstate."
The delegation is also supporting the bipartisan Senate highway bill, which passed the Senate on time this year, but is being stalled by the House leadership, at the cost in Rhode Island of highway projects and construction jobs this summer. That legislation also creates a program which could help fund the Viaduct project.
According to a report by Transportation 4 America, nearly 68 percent of Rhode Island roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition, and 1 in 5 bridges in the state are structurally deficient -- the fourth highest of any state.