The following was submitted by Representative Terri Cortvriend (District 72, Portsmouth and Middletown).
I write this letter in response to my opponent’s recent Letter to the Editor entitled “The buck stops here” While I appreciate his passion I don’t believe he understands the role of a State Rep. in this process. Sadly, the buck does not stop where he thinks… it stops with the Statewide Planning Commission, They decide priority on road infrastructure projects through the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). The legislature votes to fund RIDOT’s budget request, that’s it. We don’t get a vote on the TIP.
The Town of Portsmouth has been working, via the TIP, on a long term fix for EMR for years, and not just pavement replacement. They proposed a Town Center Plan to address safety, traffic congestion, and supporting infrastructure in 2003. We got help in 2009 when Senator Reed secured a planning grant of 950,000 to assist with this project. We have been talking about EMR/Town Center thru the tenures of the last two town administrators and our current administrator Richard Rainer. District 72 has had 6 Representatives from 2003 to now. It is a complex, and very expensive undertaking.
My involvement with EMR, aside from driving it every day, started in October 2018 when as chair of the Portsmouth School Committee I and several of my school committee colleagues testified to the RI State Traffic Commission our concern about school transportation safety on EMR. This initiated the current discussion on a trial “Road Diet.”
The town also requested resolution of EMR safety concerns, which led to my request for a RIDOT Road Safety Audit, which was recently completed, and briefed to the Town Council. .
One result of the audit, among numerous recommendations for safety improvements, was that a road diet was not feasible for the southern stretch of EMR. After modeling the traffic counts the safety audit team concluded a road diet would cause unacceptable traffic congestion. It’s disappointing as a road diet could have offered an inexpensive, and quick solution to several issues with EMR.
You can review the PowerPoint that was presented to the Council here;
I also suggest that you watch the meeting when it is uploaded to the town’s website to see the virtual traffic model which is not part of the PowerPoint.
So, the work continues on this multi-layered problem. Be assured that town leadership, local and state level, are working closely with RIDOT to find effective, long-term solutions. Everyone takes this issue seriously, and wants to get this done. Anyone thinking there is an easy answer out there does not understand the scope of the problem, the fiscal impacts, nor the related utility and public infrastructure implications. This is one project we really do need to get right the first time.
Notwithstanding some election season political grandstanding, we are working on systemic solutions for this major travel artery, they will require significant funding, and meticulous planning. It’s not just about repaving, and I for one will not be stampeded into any rash decisions which may lead us to sub-optimal outcomes for EMR.