Rhode Island cities and towns would have access to low-interest loans for road and bridge repairs under a bill unveiled Thursday by House Speaker Gordon Fox and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo. It’s being sold as a way to jump start the state’s sluggish construction trade.
The bill would establish a Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund that cities and towns could access for road and bridge improvements. It’s modeled after the state’s Clean Water Finance Authority which over the past 15 years has loaned out $1 billion for municipal sewage treatment projects. The interest would be so low that municipalities could save $1 million on a $10 million dollar project.
Bill sponsor and House Speaker Gordon Fox says it would create badly needed construction jobs."It is a home run in terms of providing for the necessary infrastructure repairs while putting people to work and using a better tool to finance these projects, alleviating the stresses that so many town officials have in their tax bases."
Fox says he’s confident he has the votes to pass the bill.
Raimondo says Rhode Island roads are in poor condition. "Driving on our roads in Rhode Island costs Rhode Island motorists $350 million a year in vehicle repairs and operating costs on account of these structurally deficient roads. That’s $468 a year per motorist in Rhode Island. I don’t know many Rhode Islanders who couldn’t use almost $500 in their wallet right now."
Fox calls the program a job creator and an investment in the future. "Done correctly this is another piece of (the issues) the Senate President and I have been dealing, talking about: how do we deal with economic issues and make this state better going forward? And infrastructure is critically important to any recipe for economic success."
Fox announced the bill at a press conference crowded with labor executives. Unemployment in the construction trades in Rhode Island is almost 40 percent.
The initial cost to the state may be as much as $60 million. The fund would provide a maximum of $20 million in loans per year, with the neediest projects getting financing first.
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