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Governor Declines to Investigate Bridge Closure

Questions swirl over why a bridge marked as structurally deficient in September was not fixed.

Wed July 01, 2015 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer McDermott - ASSOCIATED PRESS

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday she won’t order an investigation into a bridge closure near the state House speaker’s law office in Cranston.

Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, a Cranston Democrat, wants to know why the state Department of Transportation didn’t fix the Park Avenue bridge after it was marked structurally deficient in September.

The bridge was closed last week because officials said it was a safety risk. They are working on plans to reopen it in a month or two.

Raimondo said the bridge has been structurally deficient and weight restricted for years. She said she inherited a poorly run DOT that’s now being restructured, and bridge inspections are being accelerated. These steps are enough, she said.

”Obviously if we ever were to find something that gave us concern, we would at that point launch an investigation,’ she said. ”I wasn’t here last September. I can just tell you, since I’ve been here, we are doing everything we can do to make DOT run well.’

Mattiello said that after speaking with Raimondo Thursday, he’s satisfied that she’s working hard to make changes at the department. He said he still wants an investigation into why the department didn’t act, but he emphasized he doesn’t hold Raimondo or the current director responsible for the problems.

”I trust that she’ll do what’s appropriate over there,’ he said.

More than 150 of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient. Raimondo said the state doesn’t have the money to fix them all. She is urging lawmakers to approve her plan to toll large commercial trucks to fund bridge repairs.

”Get to work General Assembly and let’s together come up with a funding stream so we have the money, so we can fix this,’ she said.

The Senate has endorsed the proposal as a way to raise $500 million to finance the repair of Rhode Island’s deteriorating bridges. The House has not.

Mattiello said the House will return for a special session in the fall to consider the tolls, or a modified proposal, to pay for bridge repairs.

Raimondo said it is possible more bridges will close because the state has the worst bridges in the nation.

”It’s time to stop with the Band-Aids,’ she said. ”Let’s get serious, not worry about what’s politically easy, and come up with a comprehensive solution to finally fix Rhode island’s bridges.’

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