EDITOR'S NOTE-> The following is a letter to the editor submitted to the Standard-Times for publication in the September 6 issue. Unfortunately, because of a lack of space, not all letters submitted were printed.
To the Editor:
In determining the policies that give Rhode Island businesses and our workforce the best opportunity to prosper and grow America’s 21st century economy, we must recognize the importance of having a 21st century infrastructure to support them.
Once regarded as the best in the world, including an advanced interstate highway system and state-of-the-art airports that allowed goods and people to travel as efficiently as possible, these entities are now in desperate need of repairs and upgrades. Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a U.S. Infrastructure report card that graded our overall performance on key projects as a “D.”
We cannot expect our economy to reach its full potential when the networks that transport commerce - our roads, bridges, airports and railways - lag behind our international competitors. In Rhode Island, nearly 68 percent of our roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition and one in five bridges are structurally deficient - the fourth highest of any state.
And those aren’t the only areas in which we have significant shortcomings. According to ASCE, the conditions of our power grid “can lead to system wide failures in the event of unplanned outages.” Experts also estimate that an average of 700 water main breaks occur across the country every day, in large part due to an aging system of pipes. While these may seem like ancillary issues to some, they could not be more relevant to Rhode Island’s economic future. Infrastructure modernization creates much-needed construction jobs in the short term and provides opportunities for business development that drives additional job growth over the long term.
To have a sustained recovery, we must get our country’s fiscal house in order while making strategic investments in high-growth employment sectors that will create demand for sustainable jobs. However, it is equally important that we invest in our aging roads, bridges and railways. Failure to maintain them will simultaneously hold back growth and cost more money over the long term. Delaying renovations results in an even greater fiscal burden down the road, whether it’s next year or after the infrastructure finally fails.
That is why I fought to overcome objections by House Republicans to fund a long-term extension of highway and bridge projects. This recently-enacted law will support construction projects over the next two years, providing Rhode Island with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and thousands of anticipated jobs. As a result, more than 30 local projects that were nearly cut will move forward, including improvements to the I-95 bridge over Route 2 and the I-295 ramps along on the Cranston/Johnston border. Separately, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation received a $10 million grant for repairs of the I-95 Viaduct in Downtown Providence.
Moving forward, we must ensure that infrastructure improvements remain a part of our national dialogue, including the addition of high speed rail. Our competitiveness in a global economy requires a sustained commitment to these systems, which will create the conditions necessary for our labor markets to recover and build the businesses required to grow our economy.
Representative Jim Langevin
2nd Congressional District