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Rhode Island awarded grants for new public health lab, transportation

Rhode Island awarded $81.7M federal grant for new health lab

Rhode Island has been awarded an $81.7 million federal grant for the state health department to build a new public health laboratory.

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation announced the new federal Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity grant. They say the current facility, commissioned in 1978, has insufficient laboratory space, inadequate building systems and broken equipment, and the state spends more than $500,000 annually to keep it working efficiently.

The state health laboratories work to investigate and mitigate life-threatening diseases, including COVID-19, eastern equine encephalitis, Ebola, H1N1, and Zika. Last year, when commercial testing services weren’t yet widely available, the number of COVID-19 samples that could be tested was limited due to insufficient laboratory space, the delegation said.

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“COVID-19 revealed a serious gap in our health care infrastructure. This new federal funding will help Rhode Island bridge that gap and create a new state-of-the-art lab facility for the 21st century,” U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline said in a joint statement.

The state health laboratories also work with state and municipal agencies to ensure the safety of drinking water and food, monitor water and air pollution, and help public safety and criminal investigations through police officer training, DNA testing and drug identification.

Rhode Island’s main airport awarded $14.8M federal grant

A nearly $15 million federal grant for Rhode Island’s main airport will help sustain it financially and keep the traveling public safe, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said.

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation announced the $14.8 million grant for Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport last week. The Federal Aviation Administration funding can be used for operations, personnel, sanitization, janitorial services and debt service payments, as well as combatting the spread of pathogens at the airport.

Reed, a Democrat, said airports were hit hard by the pandemic and the grant can be used broadly to help them return to pre-pandemic levels of service.

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“The pandemic presented a whole new set of challenges for keeping air travelers safe,” added Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “This federal support will cover the costs of additional safety measures that have been put in place at T.F. Green, and help get our flagship airport and tourism industry back up to pre-pandemic levels.”

The American Rescue Plan Act provided $8 billion in federal aid nationally to keep airports running and airport workers on the job as the aviation industry recovers.

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation is expecting another $45 million in additional federal funding over the next five years from the $1 trillion infrastructure deal signed by President Joe Biden.

RIPTA gets $900,000 grant to help develop transit corridor

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is getting a $900,000 federal boost to develop plans for a high-capacity transit corridor to connect Central Falls to Warwick via Providence, according to the state’s congressional delegation.

The corridor was one of five goals included in RIPTA’s Transit Master Plan for the next 20 years.

The planning grant could enable RIPTA to complete the preliminary work needed to eventually bring a bus rapid transit or light rail project to the region.

The $900,000 planning grant is made available through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity grant program, for capital investments in surface transportation that will have a significant impact or that directly benefit areas of persistent poverty.

The state’s congressional delegation and RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian have scheduled a news conference for Monday at the agency’s Chafee Transportation Center in Providence to discuss the study and its potential impacts.

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