Rhode Island Department of Transportation Proposal Slashes Bicycle and Pedestrian Project Funding Statewide

 (Jan 26, 2019) The “Major Amendment to the State Transportation Improvement Plan” presented by RIDOT to the State Transportation Advisory Committee on January 24th includes 33% cut to the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) over four years. TAP is the primary source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects statewide.

According to a press release from the RI Bicycle Coalition: “While RIDOT asserts that shortfalls from the General Assembly’s Capital Budget, delays in constructing toll infrastructure, and deteriorating bridges are the cause of the amendment, very little of the proposed change will fund bridge work. Instead, one new $28.8 million highway project in western Cranston is one of the biggest proposed changes, along with large allocations to build toll gantries ($61.6 million) and ‘Headquarters Operations’ which includes more than doubling the ‘Legal’ line item to $24.9 million.”

The $27 million in proposed cuts includes eliminating the $5 million Bicycle Improvements Contingency Account funded by the 2016 Green Economy Bond. Bike Newport’s Executive Director, Bari Freeman, sits on the state’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and Bicycle Mobility Plan Committee, and is a member of the statewide coalition Paths to Progress that advises the state on bicycle and pedestrian project planning and funding. “The TAC created the contingency fund in response to these statewide coalitions and in order to ensure assignment of those funds to align with the statewide Bicycle Mobility Plan priorities. Those funds are untouchable. Our state electorate resoundingly voted those funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects by 79%,” Freeman stated. “That’s not approval – that’s a mandate, and they will not be redirected to highway or any project other than those for which they were intended.”

The proposed amendment eliminates, cuts or delays funding to 35 bicycle and pedestrian projects statewide, including separated bike paths, sidewalks, and critical on-road connections. On Aquidneck Island, the Melville Connector and the Mount Hope Bay Path in Portsmouth will be eliminated; the shared use path and sidewalks on East Main Road in Portsmouth and Middletown will be eliminated; and scheduled improvements to Thames Street, Spring Street, Farewell Street, Bellevue Avenue, and Marlborough Street in Newport will be delayed to 2023 and beyond.

Portsmouth Town Councilor Daniela Abbott is one of many bicycle and pedestrian advocates opposed to the cuts, “East Main Road is finally getting the sidewalks and bike paths so desperately overdue for transportation safety. These cuts are not considering people’s safety, connectivity, or economy. RIDOT needs to, and will be, better informed by the people of this state who intend to walk and ride to get where we’re going.”

The State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) is accepting comments on a proposed Major Amendment, classified as Amendment #11, to the FFY 2018-2027 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for the State of Rhode Island. The TAC will be conducting two (2) public hearings to accept comments on the proposed Major Amendment #11.  The Public hearings will take place on:

Monday, February 25, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.
Narragansett Town Hall – Council Chambers
25 Fifth Avenue
Narragansett, RI 02882

Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.
RI Department of Administration
One Capitol Hill, Providence RI 02908
Conference Room A, 2nd Floor

All persons may present their views on this Major Amendment in person or through a representative at the TAC meeting referenced above.  Written statements may also be filed with the Secretary of the Transportation Advisory Committee and mailed to Michael D’Alessandro, RI Dept. of Administration, Division of Statewide Planning, One Capitol Hill, Providence, RI 02908 or email to Michael.DAlessandro@doa.ri.gov.  All comments on the STIP Amendment must be received prior to or during the TAC’s meeting on February 28, 2019 at 4:00 p.m.

The public meeting location is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Any individual requiring a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this meeting should contact Thomas Mannock, Ph.D. at 401-222-6377 (voice) as soon as possible.  Individuals requesting foreign language translation services should contact Mr. Benny Bergantino at (401) 222-1755 at least five (5) business days prior to the scheduled start of a meeting.  Public transit schedule information for the workshops is available from RIPTA at (401) 781-9400 or www.ripta.com

Bike Newport and Aquidneck Island Planning Commission are planning community information and discussion meetings to take place in addition to the upcoming public meetings scheduled by RIDOT. These meeting dates will be announced next week. For more information and updates, please follow Bike Newport online at www.bikenewportri.org and @bikenewportri on social media.