U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) filed legislation in the Senate today to extend a program specifically targeted toward large-scale infrastructure projects across the country. The "Projects of National and Regional Significance" program, which could aid projects like the I-95 Viaduct in Providence, would make grants available through a competitive process.
The program was authorized last year as part of the federal transportation funding bill, but its authorization expires at the end of fiscal year 2013. Whitehouse's bill would re-authorize the program for fiscal year 2014. Funding for the program would need to be approved separately through the appropriations process, which is slated to begin in the coming months.
"We need to continue investing in infrastructure to keep our highways and bridges safe, and to generate badly-needed jobs," said Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "This bill would establish a program to specifically target projects, such as northbound route 95 in Providence, that are vital to our national interest. I'll keep fighting to get this done."
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. Among them is the Viaduct, which carries I-95 for nearly a quarter mile through downtown Providence -- supporting daily travel of over 160,000 vehicles. The Viaduct was built in 1964 and is badly deteriorated: steel girders have cracked, and wood planks have been installed to prevent concrete from falling on cars and pedestrians that travel below.
Last year, Senator Whitehouse worked with the Congressional delegation to help secure a $10 million federal TIGER grant to get the Viaduct project started, but additional funding will help move the project forward.