WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Senate is poised to approve a transportation bill that will help create and protect construction jobs and give Rhode Island greater surety over federal investment in highway and transit in the state. 

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) says the bill will provide Rhode Island over $537 million over the next 27 months to create more construction jobs in Rhode Island and help the state make critical transportation improvements, but does not solve the nation’s long-term highway funding problems. 

“Creating jobs must be our number one priority and this measure will support thousands of jobs in Rhode Island and help drive our economy forward.  It gives the state and the construction industry the certainty they need to plan transportation projects and put people to work.  This is a smart investment in upgrading Rhode Island’s network of roads, bridges, transit, and other infrastructure,” said Reed.

The 27-month, $120 billion transportation bill essentially freezes federal funding at current levels for the first year and then increases Rhode Island’s share slightly in the second year.  The state is expected to receive about $240 million per year in 2013 and 2014.  The bipartisan bill consolidates multiple programs to cut red tape and provide the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) with an average of $212 million a year for highways, roads, bridges, and mass-transit.  Reed helped author a key portion of the bill that will provide Rhode Island with an estimated increase of about $5 million in mass-transit funding.  The state will continue to receive about $3 in federal highway funding for every dollar paid in federal gas taxes.

“I am pleased to have secured an increase in Rhode Island’s public transit funding.  The bill will help provide Rhode Islanders with more transportation choices to connect them to jobs, education, and other opportunities,” said Reed, a member of the Banking Committee, which is responsible for authorizing urban mass transit systems.  “With more Rhode Islanders depending on bus and rail service, this federal funding will help give the state the resources it needs to provide equipment for safe and reliable service.”

Reed also noted Rhode Island could receive additional funding from the bill to help finance major projects, such as the replacement of the I-95 Viaduct in Providence.  The legislation authorizes a $500 million grant program for transportation projects of national and regional significance.  Rhode Island recently received a $10 million TIGER grant to help upgrade the Providence Viaduct, which RIDOT estimates will cost $169 million to replace.  Over the last four years, Rhode Island has received three TIGER grants totaling $42.8 million for improvements at the Viaduct, as well as investments at Port of Davisville and the Port of Providence.