With relatively few dollars of its own and a lot of political courage, Rhode Island is solving its (very) deficient bridge problem.
There are more than 56,000 structurally deficient bridges on and off the Interstate system that are getting pounded every day by heavy trucks and need immediate repair or replacement. Facing that problem in spades, Rhode Island found a way to fix 33 deficient bridges throughout the state under a rarely-used federal rule that allows tolling of Interstate bridges if the proceeds are spent to replace or reconstruct them.
A 10-year, $25-million contract was awarded in May to a firm that will install and operate an all-electronic system to toll trucks using I-95, I-195, I-295 and state highways. Annual net revenues of $42.3 million will backstop $300 million in Garvee bonds to pay for the bridge work. Indiana has expressed interest in using the Rhode Island approach to toll its entire Interstate system.
“The Trump Administration could issue an Executive Order tomorrow directing the FHWA to expedite approval of tolling to address the nation’s crumbling interstate bridges,” says Peter Garino, the former Chief Operating Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. “All Electronic Tolling makes tolling a cost-effective means of addressing the nation’s bridge infrastructure. There is certainly no shortage of bridges in this country that need to be replaced or reconstructed. Nor is their a shortage labor or construction firms eager to do the work. Why wait?”
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