Local Road Funding Program Proposed for Rhode Island

Governor Dan McKee (D) and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation recently held a media event at the North Providence Department of Public Works to highlight the “RI Ready Municipal Road Fund Program” outlined in the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget.

[Above photo by RIDOT]

That proposed grant program would make $20 million available to fund road, bridge, and sidewalk projects on locally maintained city and town roads. Out of that $20 million total, some $15 million would be divided equally among each city and town in Rhode Island, or about $380,000 each, should the program win approval from the state legislature.

Photo by RIDOT

The remaining $5 million will be distributed proportionally to municipalities based on the miles of roads in each community, with cities and towns with more roads under their jurisdiction able to seek more funding.

About 80 percent of all the miles of roads in Rhode Island – roughly 5,000 miles – are maintained by cities and towns, RIDOT noted, with the agency maintaining the remaining balance of some 1,100 miles of state roads under its jurisdiction.

This proposed program would also contain several “accountability measures,” according to the governor’s office, including a quarterly reporting requirement. Municipalities using the grant funds will report on each project’s progress, contract award dates, contract values, and anticipated completion dates – with any project funded by the program required to be completed by the end of 2026.

Gov. McKee (at podium) with RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. Photo by RIDOT.

Gov. McKee said this proposed program is designed to help local communities – which often struggle to set aside enough capital improvement funds in their budgets – to properly maintain their transportation infrastructure.

The program uses federal American Rescue Plan funds to leverage municipal investments to get more road paving projects done across the state, he said.

“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,” the governor said in a statement. “This must be a team effort if we want to get results – the RI Ready Municipal Road Fund Program can help us get it done.”

Peter Alviti, Jr. Photo by RIDOT.

Under this proposed program, each city and town would provide 67 percent of their local transportation project costs, with the state matching the remaining 33 percent. With this level of local investment, the fund can make up to $60 million available for local road projects, explained RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr.

“By combining local capital improvement dollars, we can take each city or town’s investment of two-thirds of the project cost and match the one-third to help make a project they couldn’t quite afford possible, or to accelerate it so their much needed local road repair projects can happen sooner,” he explained.

Several states provide similar funding programs in support of local transportation needs.

For example, Alabama recently awarded more than $5.1 million in state grants to cities and counties for various local road and bridge projects. Those funds come through the state’s Annual Grant Program, created by the 2019 Rebuild Alabama Act, which requires the Alabama Department of Transportation to set aside $10 million annually off the top of the state’s share of new gas tax revenue for local projects.

Photo by INDOT

Meanwhile, in December 2022, the Indiana Department of Transportation issued a combined $119.4 million in state matching funds to 229 Indiana cities, towns, and counties to support local road projects through the “Community Crossings” program.

That program is part of the state’s Next Level Roads program, which is a 20-year plan established in 2017 by Governor Eric Holcomb (R) and the state legislature to enhance Indiana’s highways and local roads by awarding communities grants for “shovel-ready” local road construction projects.

Additionally, in April 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) made an annual increase in funding allocations for local bridge projects by more than $47 million for the next five years, bringing the state’s annual investment in county and municipal bridges to over $112 million per year.

As a result, funding provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation for bridges maintained by the state’s 88 county engineers will increase from $34 million to $74 million annually, with municipal-owned bridge funding increasing from $11 million to $18 million each year.

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