Money Watchers: State leaders announce road funding plan

House Speaker Gordon Fox and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo unveiled a plan Thursday aimed at helping Rhode Island municipalities borrow money for road and bridge projects at a low interest rate.

The legislation would create a new funding source to be administered by the state's Clean Water Finance Authority. Municipalities would be allowed to borrow money from the road repair fund for improvement projects.

"If you've driven on Rhode Island roads, I think everybody can agree we need this. And we need to get people to work," Raimondo said.

With a 40 percent unemployment rate in the construction industry in Rhode Island, Raimondo said the legislation will create jobs while providing a plan that is sustainable and not a one-time fix for road projects.

"It's $20 million a year, every year, forever. And as the speaker says, the $20 million is a place holder. We have to figure out what is the right amount. The whole point of this is that by consolidating and pulling together all the demand from all the municipalities and centralizing that, we can have lower rates and economies of scale," she said.

The plan would need General Assembly approval. But Michael Sabitoni, who represents the construction industry, thinks the $20 million go along way into improving the state's roads.

"I think it does. I think when you take a look at how the fund works. I wish it could be bigger, but I think it's a good start and then as we roll it out and more resources become available in each yearly budget, maybe we can expand the program. But this is a perfect start," he said.

Leaders from other towns and cities attended the announcement to see if they can use the funds.

"We are looking at this. We are looking at what the governor is projecting, and what we need to do to get our roads up to standard," said Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.