- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate and General Treasurer Gina Raimondo on Monday announced a proposal to improve Rhode Island’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure that would rely on long-term investments and avoid what she called “short-term fixes.”

Speaking alongside one of the state’s crumbling bridges in East Providence, Raimondo said she would create a Rhode Island Municipal Infrastructure Bank as a “one-stop shop” for cities and towns.

It would expand a road and bridge revolving fund she created last year with the General Assembly to provide low-interest loans to municipalities for repairs; establish a road and bridge funding formula; launch a so-called green bank for retrofitting buildings and facilities; and create a school building authority to stimulate capital improvements.

“The whole point of this plan is - we have to invest,” Raimondo said at the 80-year-old Ten Mile River Bridge, one of hundreds in Rhode Island that are considered either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. “We can’t have roads that are falling apart. We can’t have schools that are falling apart. We can’t have bridges that are falling apart.”

Raimondo faces Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, a Coast Guard officer and former U.S. Department of Education official who is the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, in the Democratic primary. Taveras and Pell have said previously that sound infrastructure is critical to the state’s future but have not released specific plans.

Raimondo said the revolving fund will need $40 million over 20 years. The funding formula will need an estimated $10 million to $20 million a year. The “green bank” would be funded through the existing renewable energy fund at the Commerce Corp., formerly known as the Economic Development Corp. She said the investments would yield long-term savings.

Over five years, the plan would create some 4,000 jobs, many in the hard-hit building trades industry, according to her campaign. She said the unemployment rate in that sector is as high as 25 percent.

As a key legislative panel prepares to consider Tuesday a proposed alternative to the Sakonnet River Bridge toll - which is expected to increase from 10 cents later this year if lawmakers can’t raise the funds another way - Raimondo stressed that the state needs to think more strategically about bridge upkeep.

“We need to build bridges with a plan to maintain them,” she said, adding that she would like to avoid tolls on the Sakonnet. “Let’s have a long-term, well-thought-out formula for how we maintain roads and bridges.”



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