West Bay rep: Fund transportation with DMV revenue
State Rep. Anthony Giarrusso said he will file legislation to earmark the $61 million in current DMV revenues for road and bridge maintenance in the state.
Giarrusso, who represents East Greenwich and West Greenwich in the House of Representatives, was the sole West Bay legislator on the special legislative commission tasked with finding ways to fund the state’s four main bridges.
Rhode Island is notorious for its poor roads and bridges, he says, and routinely ranks as one of the bottom two states for its highway infrastructure.
“My concern is that if we invest these state and federal dollars, and then fail to maintain what we have built, we will end up in exactly the same place down the road,” he said. “We were forced to replace the Sakonnet River Bridge at a cost of $167 million because we failed to maintain it. We have to stop operating this way.
“That being said, we are running out of new sources of revenue to fund infrastructure maintenance. This is an effort to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in. A fundamental rule is, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. And that’s the goal here.”
State funding for maintenance of Rhode Island’s highways and bridges has been primarily funded by the state’s 33-cents-pergallon gasoline tax, the nation’s 13th highest. As a result of better fuel economy, however, gasoline tax revenues have been steadily shrinking.
Federal funds, from the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, account for nearly 80 percent of the state Department of Transportation’s operating budget. The fund, however, is nearly exhausted. Congress has been unwilling to finance the program beyond its inflation-adjusted 2012 levels.
“With 70 percent of our bridges deficient or obsolete, and roadways across the state falling apart, we can’t wait for someone to wave a magic wand and make this problem disappear. I realize this creates a budget hole the General Assembly will have to fill, but given the state of our roads and highways, and the importance they have to our economic health, we have little choice.”