2007-05-31 / Editorial

Highway garage question may go before the voters

It may be hard for the casual observer to believe, but there has been progress on choosing a site for the new highway garage. The Town Council voted Tuesday evening to ask the state legislature to allow a referendum on the location and funding of a new facility.

But at the same meeting council members delayed making the most important decision - where to place the new highway garage. Town officials said more information was needed on the two potential sites. They are currently busy gathering those details.

If that information is obtained in the next few days, the council could make the long-awaited site decision at its next regular meeting in June. Or there may be a special meeting called as soon as next week.

The town is considering building the new highway garage either on land next to the Newport Bridge or on property adjacent to the former landfill on the north end. Both properties have good and bad points.

The north end location has been highly controversial and has been the subject of lengthy public debates. One new development is that someone has offered to purchase Lot 47, the property next to the landfill proposed for the highway garage.

In order to build the garage next to the Newport Bridge the town must purchase or lease some land from the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. Those negotiations are underway.

Once the council selects the highway barn site, the state legislature will be requested to allow a special election. Then island voters will be asked to approve spending up to $1.5 million to construct a new highway garage on the selected site.

Where to place the highway garage has been contested for years. It appears that the decision may finally be made with a reasonable price tag.

- Jeff McDonough

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