Blue Ribbon Panel Completes Information Gathering Phase

Fri August 29, 2008 - Northeast Edition

Since its inception this past March, Gov. Carcieri’s 12-member Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Funding has been holding ongoing meetings focused on the state’s overall transportation infrastructure needs. The purpose of the Blue Ribbon Panel is to identify these needs and develop strategies to address them. The overall objective of the panel is to develop options on how to fund an aging infrastructure and provide enough revenues for a comprehensive transportation system. Mass transit and RIPTA are integral components.

During the Panel’s bi-monthly meeting at the Rhode Island Department of Administration (RIDOA), the last presentation on funding needs was made by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA). As the state’s quasi-public public transit authority, RIPTA currently has a $12.3 million deficit for FY 2009.

Said Panel Co-Chair Jerome F. Williams, Director, RIDOA, “RIPTA receives 7.25 cents per every gallon of gas sold. This must be included in the overall funding plan for transportation as the panel moves forward. As fuel prices are on the rise, this is a great opportunity for mass transit. The services that RIPTA provides have a direct benefit to meeting the needs of our overall transportation system.”

Williams also noted that Rhode Islanders need to recognize that as the state becomes successful in encouraging people to use other forms of transportation this leads to a reduction in the overall revenue stream that is used to fund transportation (i.e. gas tax).

“This is a challenge that we must continue to meet,” added Williams.

Other presentations during the Blue Ribbon Panel meetings have been made by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program, the Federal Highway Administration, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, First Southwest Company, and the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center.

The panel expects to release a final report by the end of the year.