East Providence's 160 miles-worth of roads could use some sprucing up


EAST PROVIDENCE — If legislation proposed last week were to come to fruition, then roadways in municipalities like East Providence could become much more pleasurable to traverse.

The “Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund” would be administered by the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Authority (RICWFA). Funding the initiative would require a long-term investment commitment from the state and would enable municipalities to borrow a steady, discounted stream of funds in perpetuity.

"The program seems promising, especially if it's run through the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Authority," East Providence Public Works Director Steve Coutu. "We've done some successful projects with our water and sewers through them in the past. It's worked well."

A significant portion of the city's 160 miles-worth of roads could use some sprucing up. According to Mr. Coutu, East Providence has not done any "comprehensive" road work since the middle of the last decade when voters approved ballot initiatives.

"The city, obviously, hasn't been in any position financially to do much over the last few years," Mr. Coutu conceded.

Under the Municipal Road and Bridge Revolving Fund, cities and towns could borrow money through the RICWFA at a significantly reduced rate of interest, making the proposition of taking out loans a bit more palatable.

"It's certainly more advantageous for municipalities to go this route," Mr. Couto said. "Of course, you're still taking on debt, but you're going to save millions on interest payments."

If the General Assembly passes the legislation, it would not take effect until the seed money, considered to be anywhere between $20 and $70 million, is put into place. The likely start time for any projects to commence is early 2014.

In the meantime, East Providence and other municipalities will begin formulating a priority list to submit to the RICWFA for approval. Mr. Coutu said the city last updated its list in 2007.

"We'll start putting some conceptual documents together, but it's not too hard to find streets in East Providence that are in need of repair," Mr. Coutu added. "We'll take a look around, grade the streets — poor, fair, good, excellent — and go from there. But we already have a pretty good idea of where we would start."

In essence, Public Works keeps an ongoing list of road repairs, especially at this point on the calendar when winter turns into spring and roads show signs of wear from plowing and salting.

Mr. Coutu said potholes, always a problem, are a little more extensive this year due to the quantity of winter storms and the amount of snow that fell over the last few months.

"There are more potholes this year than last because of the number of storms we had and because the roads aren't getting any better," Mr. Coutu added. "Filling potholes is a losing battle, but it's something that has to be done until we do the necessary major fixes to our roads."



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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.