- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell said Thursday that infrastructure in Rhode Island is deteriorating, and he called for spending at least $200 million to fix it.

Pell, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education and the grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, released his transportation and infrastructure plan at the Providence train station, a railroad hub in need of repairs.

His plan calls for a bond referendum in 2016 and 2018 to create a $200 million program to improve the state’s roads, bridges, highways, transit system, ports and railways. Other projects could be paid for with federal money, and the state should partner with other states in the Northeast on initiatives, he added.

“When a simple summer rain closes down a road, it is time for new ideas,” he said. “The solutions of yesterday should not, and frankly cannot, be dusted off and offered as the plans for tomorrow. The social, economic and environmental realities we face today are not those of the past.”

Others seeking the party nomination in September are General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Moderate Party founder and businessman Ken Block are running for the Republican nomination. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat, is not seeking a second term.

Taveras has proposed creating an “infrastructure trust” to provide low- or no-interest loans to cities and towns for road and bridge repairs. Raimondo has proposed a similar infrastructure bank.

Also Thursday, Pell proposed expanding commuter and freight rail service and public bus transportation, investing in resilient infrastructure that uses green materials and engineering and that can withstand climate change, and improving the Providence train station.

Pell said expanding rail service is a good investment, even though ridership has been low on the MBTA commuter line that connects Providence with Warwick and Wickford Junction. Trains on that route do not come frequently enough and a transit system needs to be convenient, accessible and reliable, Pell said.

A proposal to open an MBTA stop in Pawtucket is “moving in the right direction,” but needs further study, Pell said. He also wants the state Department of Transportation to study adding a third track along the Northeast corridor, reasoning that it would increase the flexibility of the region’s commuter and freight rail services.

“This is how economies grow, by making sure people can get to work and that goods and services can move around the state and around the country,” he said.


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