Editorial: Washington Bridge 'accountability' starts at the top

Posted 3/20/24

Recently ConsumerAffairs, a consumer-focused news outlet, rated Rhode Island’s roads as the worst in the country in their 2024 report. The “All That” state slipped from …

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Editorial: Washington Bridge 'accountability' starts at the top


Recently ConsumerAffairs, a consumer-focused news outlet, rated Rhode Island’s roads as the worst in the country in their 2024 report. The “All That” state slipped from second-to-last to last place, since the previous report in 2022. This abysmal report is despite the much heralded, $5 billion “RhodeWorks” road improvement plan that began in 2016.

Eight years and significant taxpayer expense later, Rhode Island roads remain an embarrassment.

To add to our driving misery, last Friday Gov. Dan McKee announced that the Washington Bridge, carrying 195 West traffic, must be replaced. This comes after the state already spent most of the money in a $78 million program to repair that very bridge. The governor insisted that “The day of accountability is coming. And it’s coming soon.” We should hope so.

Gov. McKee should start by holding the person responsible for road and bridge maintenance accountable, soon. The time has come for Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Peter Alviti to step down. His failure of leadership and management relative to the Washington Bridge crisis is not the first indication of the ineptitude of DOT.

Alviti, along with his legions of engineers and outside consultants, either completely missed, or ignored, the fact that the Washington Bridge had deteriorated beyond repair. He seemed surprised to learn of the magnitude of the problem with the bridge, requiring it to be immediately closed to traffic in December. The DOT director, by definition, is responsible for what goes on in that agency, and too much has gone wrong under Alviti’s watch. Not to mention, the condition of Rhode Island roads is not getting any better.

Alviti has estimated that the new bridge will cost $250 to $300 million and take two years to complete. Does anyone believe him? The new Barrington River Bridge, significantly smaller than the Washington Bridge, was completed three years late and $10 million over budget. Further, the bridge was already determined to be structurally deficient in 2019, only ten years after it was finished.

The governor’s accountability promise needs to start from within. It is time for Director Alviti to go, along with any others involved in the failed inspections and maintenance of the Washington Bridge. This is the only way to potentially regain the trust of the public, in both this project and this governor.

If Gov. McKee does not take this necessary action, he is likely to be held accountable.

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Meet our staff
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.