McKee proposes using ARPA funds for $20 million road repair program
Municipal leaders praise investment plan they say will save residents money and help economy
Providence Mayor Brett Smiley (left) gives his support for Gov Dan McKee’s proposed municipal road grant program. Behind him is RIDOT Director Peter Alviti (center) and Gov. Dan McKee (right). (Photo by Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)
NORTH PROVIDENCE — As a former mayor, Gov. Dan McKee says he understands the frustration local leaders face when their towns have pothole problems, but no funding to address them.
That’s why McKee is proposing a $20 million municipal grant program as part of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s (RIDOT) fiscal year 2024 budget to update local roads, sidewalks and bridges. Funding will come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by the federal government in 2021.
“We know people enjoy driving on good, smooth pavement,” McKee said at a press conference Monday outside the North Providence Department of Public Works. “The public wants us to invest in their roads.”
Should the grant program be approved by the General Assembly, each city and town would provide 67% of the project costs with the state matching the remaining 33%.
Of the $20 million available, $15 million would be divided equally among each of the state’s 39 municipalities, about $384,615 each. The remaining $5 million would be distributed proportionally based on the miles of roads in each community.
“A lot of the smaller cities and towns usually fall off the end of these kinds of proposals,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. said in an interview. “They’ll certainly get their fair share of the funding.”
A lot of the smaller cities and towns usually fall off the end of these kinds of proposals. They’ll certainly get their fair share of the funding.
– Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti, Jr.
To request funds, Alviti said municipalities must inform RIDOT on the timeline of their projects, obligations to complete funding, and a review of the project’s viability. Town leaders must also submit quarterly reports to the department.
“That way we can make sure the plans are real,” he said. “We will be with them every step of the way.”
All projects must be completed by the end of 2026.
Funding is only set for this fiscal year, though Alviti said if there are ample funds in the future, it is a program he would like to continue.
“I think it’s a good investment,” he said.
All roadwork is local
Local leaders from across the state praised McKee’s proposal during Monday’s event.
“Because of decades of underinvestment in our physical infrastructure — it’s impossible to fix it the right way the first time” Providence Mayor Brett Smiley said.
Ernie Almonte, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, said league members all agree that updating local infrastructure is a top priority in each of their municipalities. Almonte also said the governor’s proposal is a way to address the state’s goal to build more housing.
“As the state looks to increase housing stock, cities and towns will need infrastructure to respond to population growth,” he said.
Warren Town Manager Kate Michaud said that these investments would also save money for residents and spur economic growth.
“A road without potholes can mean that a driver isn’t spending their paycheck on new tires,” she said. “Maintenance of a local bridge can mean that a neighboring small business isn’t affected when it eventually closes due to poor condition.”
Officials said this program could improve Rhode Island’s rankings in national infrastructure surveys. Recent studies list the Ocean State as having the worst roads in the country, although RIDOT disputes the regency of the data.
A road without potholes can mean that a driver isn’t spending their paycheck on new tires.
– Warren Town Manager Kate Michaud
Roughly 80% of all the miles of roads in Rhode Island – about 5,000 miles – are maintained by cities and towns, the governor’s office notes. RIDOT maintains around 1,100 miles of the state’s roads.
“As the state works to repair roads and bridges to improve Rhode Island’s national infrastructure rankings, we want to provide support to our municipalities to do the same,” McKee said. “This must be a team effort if we want to get results.”
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