Transportation and Infrastructure
Transportation and infrastructure are essential priorities for a densely populated state like Rhode Island. Our roads, bridges, and transit networks affect how we get to work and school, and allow us to spend time with our loved ones. Our pipelines, waterways, and freight corridors provide access to critical needs for our local businesses. And efficient local air service and Amtrak can take us virtually anywhere we need to go.
As someone who lives with a disability, I understand the particular needs the disabilities community faces when it comes to transportation. That’s why I was proud to include additional funding in the bipartisan 2015 surface transportation bill (or “FAST Act”) to allow transit agencies, such as RIPTA, to access a larger percentage of federal funds for paratransit. All too often, people with disabilities face uncertainty surrounding basic transit services they need for daily appointments and errands. To truly live an independent life, every citizen needs transportation services that are fully responsive to the needs of our community.
The FAST Act will provide increased certainty to state Departments of Transportation, including RIDOT. Our state has an ongoing challenge to upgrade our highway infrastructure, particularly our bridges. Federal funds, in combination with state revenues, will allow for long-term growth and investment in our state. This legislation was enacted without raising the federal gas tax, which has not increased since 1993.
As a Rhode Island delegation, we were also able to secure a $31 million grant for the redevelopment of the Pawtucket/Central Falls MBTA station, which has been underutilized due to deterioration. The building out of this station is another step in our progress towards regional passenger rail that better serves all Rhode Islanders. I continue to advocate for expanded Amtrak service to Rhode Island, including the infrastructure needed to allow Amtrak to service the T.F. Green Airport station. Additionally, any future redevelopment of the Northeast Corridor must include reliable service to Rhode Island.
On aviation, efforts are underway to develop a long-term FAA reauthorization, which will include needed reforms to keep our airports safe and efficient. Along with Senator Whitehouse, I was proud to introduce legislation to keep drones away from aircraft taking off or landing at airports. Civilian drone use is an exciting technology, one that can provide us with great opportunities for mobile photography and other uses. But we must ensure that this recreational use does not compromise safety and security.
Additionally, in 2016, I was happy to cosponsor a successful bill, included in the bipartisan short-term FAA extension, which reformed the Air Traffic Controller hiring process. Our ATC personnel are facing a generational change in mandatory retirements, and we need to do everything we can to ensure that our towers are sufficiently staffed.
In addition to these priorities, I was pleased to see a bipartisan coalition come together to pass the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. This bill will fund projects by the Army Corps of Engineers to help with flood mitigation and other projects in Rhode Island and throughout the country.
As a delegation, we also secured $18.2 million in new federal funding for clean water infrastructure in Rhode Island. I strongly support the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, and I have cosponsored legislation to provide increased federal coordination and financing for green banks such as ours. Improvements from such programs will save Rhode Island taxpayers money, while upgrading the resilience of our energy and water infrastructure.
I look forward to continuing to improve and expand our transportation and infrastructure, and I am glad that these issues have received increased focus and scrutiny in Congress. Our highways and other transportation systems are the lifeblood of our economy, and with responsible investment we can be sure these services work for all Americans.