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How could the American Jobs Plan improve Rhode Island’s infrastructure?

We ask 10 local experts how they’d like to see President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan put to use in the Ocean State

The Newport Bridge can be seen Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 in Newport, R.I.The Boston Globe/Boston Globe

Remember Gina Raimondo? Rhode Island’s former governor is one of five cabinet secretaries who President Joe Biden has asked to help push his $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan, so it’s safe to say you’re going to being seeing a whole lot more of her on television.

Since she might not have as much time to read letters from her neighbors about pot holes and sidewalks, Globe Rhode Island asked a bunch of super smart people to quickly explain how they’d like to improve Rhode Island’s infrastructure if the American Jobs Plan becomes law.

Stefan Pryor

Rhode Island Commerce


Infrastructure investments in support of our ocean economy. Among the possibilities: 1. Port upgrades at locations including Quonset, ProvPort, and a new port at East Providence for ocean enterprises ranging from import/export to shipbuilding to the offshore wind industry. 2. Seafood and fisheries projects, including a potential processing facility. 3. Investment in the development and testing of marine technology in collaboration with key institutions such as URI.

Sabina Matos

Providence City Council president/nominee for lieutenant governor

This is a once in a generation opportunity to build school buildings that meet the needs of this century. We must also look at fixing the infrastructure of our roads and bridges (which will create thousands of good paying jobs), upskilling workers for the jobs of tomorrow, building more affordable housing, and increasing broadband access.

Marc Dunkelman

Watson Institute, Brown University

Today, it’s almost impossible to drop your kids at school in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts, commute to Boston, and get back in time for dinner. For a pittance compared to nearly any other upgrade, we could halve commute times simply by switching the old diesel locomotives running the Providence/Stoughton route for clean electric trains. The existing diesels could be used for additional runs on the Worcester line. Residents of New Bedford, Fall River, and Cape Cod wouldn’t have to fight so many cars on the Central Artery. Boston businesses could draw from a much wider commuting footprint. Low cost, high impact, everybody wins. 


Michael Baer

NuGen Go

Rhode Island’s biggest priority coming out of the American Jobs Plan should be to accelerate the pace of investment in grid modernization. A resilient and modern power grid is vital to growing a sustainable economy. Grid modernization ensures that we have clean, reliable, and affordable power while putting us on a path to achieving the state’s decarbonization goals. Grid infrastructure is too often an afterthought, but without it we cannot affordably electrify cars, buses, and trucks, build green schools, or rely on the lights to turn on and stay on during extreme weather events.

Peter Alviti

Rhode Island Department of Transportation

The infrastructure plan proposes funding in several different areas, and we have plans to do projects in all the categories – many of which we can accelerate as funding becomes available. For roads and bridges, we have more than 1,500 projects in our 10-year plan. For transit, we have a ferry system we are looking to improve, we have been working with MBTA on electrification of their trains and more frequent service between Providence and Boston, we have started the preliminary design of an Amtrak stop at TF Green State Airport, and with RIPTA, we are working with them on electrification of their fleet and providing charging stations for buses. We have $20 million a year for the next 10 years allocated for bike and pedestrian safety projects from which we can draw many projects. We have also been discussing a new port with the mayor of East Providence.  


Liza Burkin

Providence Streets Coalition

With an influx of federal funding and the knowledge that transportation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Rhode Island, we should take immediate action to implement the state’s Transit Master Plan and Bicycle Mobility Plan, both of which were formally adopted by the State Planning Council in December 2020. Building a fast, reliable mass transit system and a safe, connected active transportation network will give everyone healthier, cleaner, and more affordable ways of getting where they need to go.  

Steven King

Quonset Development Corporation

Quonset’s world-class infrastructure is the cornerstone of our success. Over 12,000 people work here today at more than 200 companies. Looking ahead, geography has blessed Rhode Island with the chance to be a hub for the off-shore wind industry - a transformative, next generation opportunity.  At Quonset’s thriving Port of Davisville we’ve already started to prepare the infrastructure for these jobs, while expanding our existing cargo traffic.  There’s a lot more to be done here, however, and in Narragansett Bay as a whole.  Making maritime infrastructure a priority would pay enormous dividends for Rhode Islanders, now and in the future.  


Michael Sabitoni

Rhode Island Building & Construction Trades Council

When these funds become available, the top priority for Rhode Island needs to be speed. State and municipal leaders need to act quickly to put these dollars to use. Rhode Island is home to plenty of roads, bridges, and other key infrastructure assets that are in desperate need of improvement due to years of neglect and deferred maintenance, and the building trades have hundreds of tradesmen and woman across the state who are ready to get to work immediately with the capability to recruit and train hundreds more for careers in the construction industry through our apprenticeship programs.

Jeffrey Diehl

Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank

The bold investments proposed in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan would allow the Infrastructure Bank to dramatically scale up our work to assist our cities and towns in replacing and upgrading deteriorating infrastructure of all kinds across the state while making it more resilient. In particular, the president’s call to invest more than $50 billion to upgrade and modernize America’s drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems would benefit our work with Providence Water to eliminate lead pipes and service lines, and our work with municipalities to upgrade drinking and waste water facilities.  

David Hardy

Ørsted Offshore North America

The Biden Administration recently committed America to being a leader in offshore wind with its goal of deploying 30 gigawatts by 2030. This action will set our country on a path to maximize our unmatched wind potential to help meet the nation’s clean energy needs. For Rhode Island to remain in its position as a leader in the American offshore wind industry, continued investments into the state’s port infrastructure through public private partnerships and more support for workforce development will serve the state well.


Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.