PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — Big dollars for roads, bridges, and a port.
In a special election Tuesday, Rhode Islanders are being asked to borrow $400 million dollars plus potentially $240 million more in interest over 20 years.
There are seven bond questions on the ballot.
One of them seeks $71 million for Rhode Island Department of Transportation projects.
"We've got a lot more to do to correct our roads and bridges and all our infrastructure," Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti told NBC 10 News
Alviti said the state's truck tolls pay about 10% of the bills.
The bond would cover revenue lost in the pandemic, he said, particularly from the gas tax.
"If we don't get the bond approved, then we're going to have make some tough decisions. We're going to have to scale back on some of the projects we've already started. We may have to delay some of them," Alviti said. "We may even have to cancel some projects."
The added pitch is that for every dollar Rhode Island puts up, the federal government will add four times as much.
So, the $71 million bond would also bring in more than $280 million more from Uncle Sam.
"That's one of the best deals around," Alviti said.
Another bond question seeks $20 million to upgrade and add docking space at the Port of Davisville, and to dredge to allow cargo ships to keep coming in.
That same question includes another $40 million to expand to other parts of the state the Quonset Development Corporation model to develop industrial land, by getting sites pre-permitted and ready to build.
"I think it's a great opportunity for Rhode Islanders at a critical time to invest in our greatest natural asset, which is the deep water port we have here in Narragansett Bay and a thriving port operation down in Davisville, as well as an opportunity to invest in a proven winner in the Quonset Business Park model," said Gavin Black, who heads the industry group RI Ports Coalition, pushing for passage.
Conservative critic Mike Stenhouse, of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, argues this isn't the time for any of the bond borrowing.
"Out of a pandemic when families and businesses have had to trim their budgets, the government needs to the same thing. Interest rates may be low, but we're struggling as a state, our economy. Now is not the time to go into more debt," Stenhouse told NBC 10.