25% RI Bridges Need Repair, No Money To Fix Them

Nearly a quarter of our Rhode Island bridges are either closed or have weight limits. The Department of Transportation said that's because the bridges are not safe and the state doesn't have enough money to fix them. That's why lawmakers are pushing for more guaranteed funding from the Feds.

DOT leaders said expect to see bridge closed and road closed signs soon if something doesn't change. As it is now, there are already five and a half pages of closed down or restricted bridges in Rhode Island.

Federal, state, and town leaders toured the work being done at the Stillwater Viaduct in Smithfield. This project started a couple weeks ago to repair the 80 year old, run-down bridge.

“If you were to walk underneath it and look up,” said state Senator John Tassoni, “I don't think you'd want to drive over it, steel that's rotted, concrete that's missing, so it is in dire need of repair.”

United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is using the tour to push lawmakers in Washington to pass guaranteed funding for public works projects like the one in Smithfield.

 “I mean, when you have to put planks underneath to keep bits of the road from falling in on cars below and from falling on the Amtrak trains below, that's a sign that it needs to be rebuilt,” said Senator Whitehouse.

DOT directors said that the reality in Rhode Island right now . 152 of the state's 754 bridges are either closed or have weight limits, even more are labeled structurally deficient. And they can't afford to fix them, which the Rhode Islanders we talked to aren't too happy about.

“I think safety should be our number one priority, and I think you're pretty much going to get what you pay for. I wish they would find a better way to distribute the funds they're already getting,” said one driver.

“If the bridges aren't safe, they should definitely put money into making them safe,” said another driver.

Most of them said they wouldn't even mind paying more taxes for safer bridges.

Even if lawmakers pass Senator Whitehouse's legislation, our bridges are still in trouble. Engineers said they need four times the money they're getting now to fix all the bridges that need it.