Vice President Joseph Biden minced no words while visiting Rhode Island to trumpet the state's sweeping $500 million bridge-and-road improvement plan.
"For 10 years you've had Lincoln Logs holding the damn thing up," Biden said of the aging East Shore Expressway Bridge over Warren Avenue in East Providence. "If everybody in Rhode Island watched the news tonight and saw that, they'd try to go around the damn bridge. I mean, it is shameful."
In February, state lawmakers passed Gov. Gina Raimondo's RhodeWorks plan, which includes controversial tolling for large trucks on the state's interstate highways. Raimondo pushed for the bill the past two years, citing architectural studies that called Rhode Island's bridges the nation's worst.
"Companies are not going to stay in states unless they can cheaply, efficiently and safely get raw materials to the floor and out into the open market. It's a simple proposition," Biden said at a press conference late Friday afternoon.
Raimondo told reporters that Biden's visit evolved from a meeting between the two earlier this year at a national conference.
"He said, 'Hey gov, you're doing a lot of good things there.' He knew about it," she said. "I said, 'Why don't you come to Rhode Island and learn about it?."
Funding will come from a $300 million Garvee bond backed by future federal highway funding, plus a Garvee refinancing to provide an additional $120 million. The measure does not call for issuing bonds against truck tolls. All the bonds in questions will be Garvees.
State officials have projected $45 million per year from the truck tolls, with an estimated 60% of that from out-of-state trucks, though the trucking industry has accused Raimondo's administration of overstating the revenue.