Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy joins Rhode Island Public Radio's Dave Fallon for a weekly business segment we're calling "The Bottom Line." Each Friday they look at business news and themes that affect local business and the public.
This week Dave and Mark talk with Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis. They not only discuss why ridership is light on the commuter rail line south of Providence. Director Lewis also talks about the federal highway trust that’s expected to run dry by next year. It’s the state’s only source of transportation funding.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the head of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation are planning to inspect an abandoned train tunnel in Providence to see how it could be used in the future. The tunnel was built in 1906 connecting the Seekonk River to the Providence River.
Gov. Chafee said he’d like to see if it could be opened and used for RIPTA buses. DOT director Michael Lewis said there are no firm plans for the old tunnel and the point of Thursday’s inspection is to see if it’s structurally sound.
Dignitaries including Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the state’s congressional delegation will gather in Providence Monday for groundbreaking on the new Viaduct south replacement project. The viaduct is a nearly 1,300 foot bridge that carries Interstate 95 through downtown Providence.
The Providence viaduct, built nearly 50 years ago, is showing its age. Wooden boards line the underside of the deck to keep crumbling concrete from falling on cars below. And weight limits would have to be next, said state Transportation Department director Michael Lewis.
Rhode Island has one of the highest rates of spending per mile on its roads and bridges. Yet a new report says our highway system is the second worst in the country. The 20th annual Highway Report was published by the Reason Foundation, a Libertarian think tank.
Rhode Island’s roads and bridges are ranked 49th in the nation – with one being the best, according to the Reason Foundation. Only Alaska has a worse highway system than the Ocean State, the group found.