PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo is calling on the R.I. Department of Transportation to take a week off from working on large construction projects so its crews can focus on repairing potholes.
Trillo, a former Republican state lawmaker, made the suggestion in a news release Monday. He said Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and RIDOT Director Peter Alviti “are too busy focusing on major projects,” suggesting those “could be put aside for a week, while crews get all hands on deck to fix Rhode Island’s pothole problem.”
“Whether you’re traveling Interstate highway 95, 295, or one of the other main arteries traversing our state, there are innumerable potholes, which when hit at 55 to 65 miles per hour, can cause a lot of damage, including front-end alignment problems,” Trillo said.
David Ortiz, a spokesman for Raimondo, declined to respond to Trillo.
Potholes are a perennial complaint in Rhode Island, not only on state-controlled roads but also on those maintained by cities and towns. During his unsuccessful campaign for Providence mayor in 2014, for example, Democrat Brett Smiley promised to make potholes a priority if he took over City Hall. (Smiley is now Raimondo’s chief of staff.)
RIDOT is responsible for more than 2,900 lane miles of road across the state. In its most recent report to lawmakers on April 30, the agency said the combination of snow and heavy rain in recent months “added more to the usual significant increase in number of potholes during the winter months.”
RIDOT said it had up to five automated pothole-patching trucks operating statewide during the winter, in addition to crews filling potholes traditionally. The agency spent about $18 million on highway maintenance between Jan. 1 and March 31, compared with $43 million on construction contracts.
Alviti acknowledged in the report RIDOT is still struggling to keep up with maintenance after ramping up its spending on construction projects since Raimondo took office.
“Even as we increase the pace of project delivery, bridges and pavement continue to deteriorate,” he wrote. “That is why we must continue to execute the RhodeWorks 10-year plan, which is based on strategic and efficient asset management, driven by state-of-the art infrastructure-preservation practices to achieve and maintain assets in a state of good repair.”
Trillo is one of nine candidates who have filed to challenge Raimondo this year, along with Republicans Allan Fung, Patricia Morgan and Giovanni Feroce; Democrats Matt Brown, Paul Roselli and Spencer Dickinson; Moderate Bill Gilbert; and independent Luis Daniel Munoz.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook