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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Fixing our roads and bridges

By Steve Ahlquist in Rhode Island’s Future
2016-02-03 Building Trades State House 001

RhodeWorks is going to happen and nothing is going to stop it.

The idea of installing 14 tolling gantries and charging trucks up to $20 to transport goods through our state is key to Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to generate the funds needed to repair Rhode Island’s crumbling bridges and roads.

There is a logic to this: Trucks are heavy and do the most damage to the roads so they should pay their share.

In her State of the State address, Governor Raimondo said, “While we’re at it, let’s reject the politics of procrastination and pass RhodeWorks.” Both House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed have strongly supported the program.

The revised RhodeWorks plan is cheaper, and is to include a strict prohibition on tolling cars without a public referendum.

2016-02-03 Building Trades State House 018“Generally,” said Mattiello, “I don’t like referendum questions.” But he included this feature in the truck toll bill to cut off opposition to the plan based on the slippery slope: tolling trucks will now not lead to tolling cars without a majority vote from the public.

At the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce (GCPP), Mattiello said, “I’ve thought about this more than any of you care to.”

Mattiello says he’s consulted experts on the economic impact, and that the “experts say it is going to improve the economy… I don’t know any way to do this without listening to the experts.”

The GCPP is a strong, vocal supporter of the truck toll bill, as are the Building Trades. Michael Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council was a welcomed, if surprising guest at the GPCC luncheon.

After the GPCC luncheon, about five hundred members of the various building trades and their allies showed up at the State House to express their support for RhodeWorks.

So many union members showed up it took over an hour for them all to enter through the metal detectors. There was supposed to be a speaking program from union leaders, and maybe it happened, but I had to leave.

It didn’t matter. Labor made their point. They want (and need) the jobs that come with fixing our bridges and roads.

Rhode Island needs to repair and upgrade its infrastructure and government, business and labor are all in agreement that the debate as to how to pay for it is over: The plan is RhodeWorks.

Steve Ahlquist is an award-winning journalist, writer, artist and founding member of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member. and Twitter: @SteveAhlquist