Editorial: East Providence’s improving infrastructure

Posted 12/3/19

When it comes to infrastructure and redevelopment in East Providence, one can’t help but feel a sense of excitement about the possibilities that lay in store for the city in the short and long …

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Editorial: East Providence’s improving infrastructure

Posted

When it comes to infrastructure and redevelopment in East Providence, one can’t help but feel a sense of excitement about the possibilities that lay in store for the city in the short and long term. And this calendar year East Providence received and created on its own some significant news.

Things actually began to take shape late in 2018 when voters approved the bond referendum to build the new East Providence High School, which actually started in June and will continue through this winter as weather allows. Hopefully, this week’s snowstorm did little to disrupt the schedule.

Late last winter/early spring, the first of two significant announcements by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation breathed even more life into the developments in the waterfront district, and federal dollars played a role in both.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, at the prodding of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation, agreed to chip in the bulk of the monies needed to rebuild the Henderson Bridge linking East Providence with the East Side of Providence. More importantly, the most updated plans would create better entry and exit ways from the bridge and allow for greater development of the surrounding land. So, too, would RIDOT’s plan to replace the Gano Street exit off Interstate 195 with a point of egress in city bolster Waterfront Drive both north and south of the Washington Bridge. Again, the state just announced it has been approved for federal “BUILD” grant funding for that project, similarly urged on by our Congressional contingent.

It shouldn’t go without mentioning either that East Providence, to some extent, was an early beneficiary of the state’s “RhodeWorks” bridge and road program. The completion of the Horton Farm Bridge over 195 also marked the replacement of all spans in city across the interstate. If only RIDOT would put a plan in place to fix Pawtucket Avenue, but we digress.

The latest encouraging news didn’t actually take place in East Providence, but in Pawtucket. Earlier this week, state officials and developers proposed an ambitious $400 million development called “Tidewater Landing” on the banks of the Seekonk River. The project would take advantage of a new federal tax incentive, known as “Opportunity Zones.” The program is controversial in some quarters because it basically gives wealthy landowners and developers the ability to do deals at a significantly reduced rate of levy. But land in East Providence is included in the state’s designated opportunity zones, so it only makes sense that current and future projects here would take advantage of the situation while it remains in the tax code.

In the end, if all goes according to plan, the city should get an economic jolt of which all residents can share.

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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.