On November 15th the Rhode Island Department of Transportation submitted the state’s federally-mandated Carbon Reduction Strategy to the Federal Highway Association. Here are the links to the press release and the final Strategy
At Bike Newport, we find that the revised Carbon Reduction Strategy was responsive to public comment, stating specifically that “the overwhelming support for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit strategies during the public comment period” was the impetus to direct more funding to projects that promote the stated primary goal – to promote mode shift away from private vehicles.
The updated plan includes new improvements to the state’s bus stops – these improvements can lead to more people using transit – delivery on the goal of mode shift.
The new funding for bicycle infrastructure is welcome but not optimal for improving mode shift. Most of the funding remains for resurfacing and preservation of existing bike paths – necessary but adds no new needed connections. There are new paths included, but they are additions to our recreational bike trail network, not the missing urban connections that lead to mode shift away from vehicles in our urban corridors. Together with active transportation decarbonization advocates around the state, we hope to influence these recommendations to where they will best accomplish the primary goal of this plan.
Additionally, the plan points out that full implementation of carbon reduction plans requires partnerships with other agencies. This is good news – as collaboration with the carbon reduction experts statewide will serve the best interests of our state’s progress toward carbon reduction goals.
ORIGINAL post 11/10/2023
On October 3rd, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation made public the state’s federally-mandated Carbon Reduction Strategy – just six weeks before the Federal Highway deadline of November 15th to receive funding for implementation.
On October 26th, numerous statewide experts and advocates for decarbonization addressed the state’s Transportation Advisory Committee expressing concerns about the plan.
On November 3rd, a letter signed by 20 transportation decarbonization advocates was submitted to the DOT’s public response portal.
On November 9th, RI Attorney General Peter Neronha released a seven-page letter to RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, saying that the plan falls short of state needs and fails to meet Act on Climate mandates, which require Rhode Island to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
While prioritizing expansion of public transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is primary in Federal Highway guidelines and in most state plans. Rhode Island’s plan prioritizes widening of highways as a primary strategy in spite of studies that report that wider highways result in higher greenhouse gas emissions. The only bicycle spending in the current strategy is on bicycle path maintenance – which the AG and the transportation decarbonization advocates note are required activities and not new construction to help more people replace car trips.
Please scroll down for links to the plans, letters, and media reports.
Here are highlights from the Boston Globe’s November 9th report “R.I. attorney general blasts DOT carbon emission reduction plan as ‘misguided’ and ‘unambitious’”:
“It is concerning, to say the least, when I see that RIDOT’s plan for critical federal dollars for carbon reductions fails to meet the moment — not only falling short of the goals we must meet, but suggesting a proposal at odds with the existing statewide plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.“
“Positively contributing to achieving Rhode Island’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction mandates at every opportunity is not optional; it is RIDOT’s legal obligation.”
He said the plan focuses funding on bicycle infrastructure maintenance rather than construction of new bike and pedestrian routes that could help more people replace car trips.
He said the plan includes inadequate funding to replace Department of Transportation vehicles with electric vehicles and for building elective vehicle infrastructure.
And he said the plan did not provide enough input from stakeholders, potentially missing out on good ideas.
Letter submitted by the Acadia Center and signed by 20 transportation decarbonization advocates, including Bike Newport, asking for changes in the plan.
According to the Providence Journal:
“DOT director Peter Alviti said the agency is working on a new draft of the plan that will soon be released to the public: ‘We’re going to take the comments and feed them back into the planning process that we have to see if we can accommodate and mitigate some of the concerns of the stakeholders in this, and we’re in the process of doing that right now,’ he said in an interview.
He also said that the strategy and the use of the $35.7 million is part of a much bigger 10-year $7-billion plan that includes more moves aimed at cutting emissions, such as doubling the amount of spending on bike paths. “
We will continue to keep this page updated as more information becomes available.