The status quo of funding Rhode Island’s bridge and road repairs is costly and antiquated. The current governor (with many financial ties and contributors) believes that “truck tolls” will pay for all the road and bridge repairs and, should that plan not work, tolls would be increased on those same trucks that deliver the food, services and goods that Rhode Islanders spend hard earned money on to survive and thrive. If that still doesn’t work, cars, pick-up trucks, and vans are next, based on the fact that the governor’s current proposal has the authority to move the toll as the DOT director sees fit.
This 1.1 billion dollar proposal, of which half goes to construction and the rest to debt servicing (which the governor knows will go to her many financial ties and contributors), will cost Rhode Islanders a half-billion dollars more than is needed and leave them holding that debt for a ten-year project with an extra twenty years of debt service. And to add insult to injury, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) is seemingly on board with the governor’s “truck toll” plan.
After the first 10 years, all that infrastructure will need to be repaired again. As a witness to this, the newly-built I-Way bridge is now being looked at for repairs.
While the budget process would still have to be followed, Republicans have a workable plan to take on a problem of this magnitude within the state budget and not incurring additional debt servicing expense. The Republican policy group’s plan, possibly, in conjunction, with the P3 plan that Mike Stenhouse has proposed in the Friday (10/23/15) edition of the Providence Journal, would, to quote Mr.Stenhouse, “make the required annual funding up to 50 percent lower than either plan.”
In explanation, the P3 model, these projects would be bid out to and delivered by responsible, cost-efficient, and safe general contractors better than Rhode Island’s Department of Transportation. Pennsylvania currently utilizes this system successfully.
To quote Mr. Stenhouse, “In exchange for guaranteed annual revenues from the state(less than the governor is requesting) over a defined period, the private partner would obtain its own financing, hire its own subcontractors, deliver the specified work, and maintain the bridges and roads that Rhode Island would still own.”
This would make the “Rhode Works” better, resulting in more timely project completion, more efficient use of public funds, less corruption, delivery of the project on time, and, to quote Mr. Stenhouse once more: “The transfer of 100 percent of the risk of cost overruns to the private sector partner and away from Rhode Islanders.”
This could open up these projects, with one-time exemptions from expensive state labor mandates, further reducing project costs. It gives minority-owned and open shop Rhode Island–based subcontractors a good chance to bid for their part of the project.
The P3 and Republican Policy Group proposals put Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island’s financial health first and possibly lower taxes later in the process possibly 50% less cost than the Raimondo and Mattiello toll plan.