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The Rocky Road to Safer Roads

While projects like the Apponaug Circulator get state and federal funding, local roads in Warwick get worn out.

Warwick, RI — Among the most visible examples of a city’s management are its roads — and Warwick’s are in pretty sorry shape.

The same can be said of the process that has been dragging along for the past couple of months.

There’s a certain irony to the fact that projects like the Green Airport runway extension and the Apponaug Circulator are giving the city a facelift — while local roads are left to the elements.

Where the state and federal governments are ponying up tens of millions to rehab major traffic centers, Warwick has barely scraped up $1 million a year over the past decade.


This has led to a skewed image of the city — one where larger arteries are being modernized while side roads and neighborhood streets are left in the same condition as 10 or 20 years ago — which feeds into the notion that Warwick is more interested in serving people from outside the city than those who reside within its borders.

And while it seems — finally — that local leaders have decided that Warwick can no longer let its local thoroughfares rot in the shadow of those larger projects, the urgency hasn’t exactly been shared by all parties.

After city councilors brought up the issue during their budget hearings this past June, it looked at first like something meaningful was going to be done.

But Mayor Scott Avedisian and the council punted the budget back and forth before it passed with the road repair budget staying where Avedisian first offered it.

Avedisian had proposed $450,000 for road paving in his FY2014 budget, then successfully vetoed the council’s preferred $1 million amount.

At the time, Avedisian told the council he opposed a long-term road bond — then reversed course after councilors solidified their support for something bigger than the number proposed by the mayor.

That reversal also followed the recent Standard and Poor’s audit report holding the city’s bond rating at AA, apparently giving Avedisian the confidence to change direction and support the bond.

Still, in what should otherwise be a smooth run for an eighth full term, that situation has opened Avedisian to legitimate criticism — although it was buried under big, scary numbers — that he’s been tone-deaf to the need for better infrastructure in the city.

After all that wrangling, there was finally some movement: The council just this week passed the first of two votes on a resolution supporting a $5 million bond item for roads — but it was far too late to include on the 2014 ballot.

Warwick probably won’t be able to significantly address its current road conditions until at least 2017, since any referendum item would go on the November, 2016 ballot.

As Rob Borkowski reported, the spending power of that $5 million would likely be reduced because of inflation — and the overall cost of the bond could exceed $8 million, when interest is figured into the equation.

That’s a lot of long-term financial pain for what could be 10 years of decent roads — and it’s pain that arguably should have been avoided.

One positive can be taken from this, though: There seems to be unity of purpose among the same group of people where, three months ago, there was discord.

Councilor Edgar Ladouceur has alternatively suggested taking the $1.25 million in savings that the council first wanted to make in the FY2014 budget — cuts that didn’t survive Avedisian’s vetoes the first time around — by changing the spending plan nearly four months into the fiscal year.

While that may seem a decent solution — and even that may be too generous a description, since it’s reversing now what the council couldn’t reverse before — Ladouceur’s plan is still only for the short term.

At some point, Warwick has to get serious enough about fixing its roads to make it a long-term priority — not just a long-term payment.

Joe Hutnak -
Author: Joe Hutnak - [email protected]

Co-Founder and Editor-at-Large of Warwick Post. For Warwick Post-related inquiries or communications, email [email protected]

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