- The Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration have approved a 10-year, $4 billion plan to improve Rhode Island bridges and roads, according to Equipment World.
- The plan is part of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation's RhodeWorks initiative and includes a framework for repairing 175 structurally deficient bridges and performing preservation work on 500 others. The RIDOT said the plan will allow the state to bring 90% of deficient bridges up to acceptable standards seven years early and for $950 million less than originally estimated.
- RIDOT officials said the comprehensive plan will make it possible for the state to avoid the stops and starts of previous efforts at infrastructure improvements and execute them on budget and on time.
Rhode Island joins a growing contingency of states that have adopted large-scale, years-long infrastructure programs. In June, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board gave the green light on a $14.4 billion, six-year highway, bridge and transit program that will not only fund improvements, but will underwrite the state's first SMART SCALE projects. SMART SCALE is a new state ranking program that scores projects on several criteria in an effort to determine which ones will be of most benefit to taxpayers.
Earlier this year, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal also announced a 10-year infrastructure initiative, this one with the price tag of $10 billion. The first portion of the program will see $2.2 billion of road and bridge repairs and improvements over a period of 18 months. The state's Department of Transportation said it also plans to use public-private partnerships for part of the work. Illinois is also getting ready to take on an ambitious infrastructure scheme with a six-year, $11.2 billion plan to repair more than 2,500 miles of road and approximately 500 bridges. State officials are looking at a funding shortfall for the program, even with an annual FAST Act payment of $134 million.
Last month in an op-ed piece for The Washington Post, former treasury secretary Lawrence Summers said the U.S. should make overhauling the nation's infrastructure a top priority and encouraged lawmakers to take advantage of low interest rates to "maximize returns." Upping infrastructure investment by just 1%, he said, would allow the country to address its most critical needs while allowing it also to start new projects.