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State House, Providence – Rhode Island House Minority Leader Michael Chippendale issues the following statement on the closing of the Washington Bridge, a crucial thoroughfare on I-195 in Providence, RI:
The Administration’s collective response to the I-195 debacle is all too familiar; another colossal failure by those who are supposed to serve the people of Rhode Island.
The Executive Branch in Rhode Island is responsible for maintaining and developing our state’s infrastructure – including the I-195 bridges. The Governor selects department heads and directors and prioritizes the areas where those departments focus. The responsibility for this avoidable disaster is undebatable.
The General Assembly makes appropriations that enable the Executive Branch to pursue these tasks and oversight hearings are the best tool we have to ensure these monies are spent wisely.
In 2016, it was the House Oversight Committee that placed an important emphasis on the failures of the UHIP system and that emphasis led to increased efforts by the Administration to resolve the problems more quickly while hopefully learning how to avoid the same problems in the future. We need Oversight in regard to this event ASAP.
The habit of government leaders ignoring infrastructure maintenance -- in lieu of other programs and initiatives -- has come back to haunt us. We’ve learned that this section of bridge was inspected under the eyes of RI DOT this past summer, and that an inspection from 2020 may have already highlighted this failure but was ignored. We’ve seen the photos of the failed pins in the bridge, and it does not require a professional engineer to observe that those pins had either already sheered, or simply based on their reduced diameter from corrosion, would soon sheer. That a “novice” engineer (who wasn’t even there to inspect the bridge) quickly made the same observations confirms this.
I urge the Speaker to empower House Oversight to fully explore all interactions between RI DOT and the contractors who constructed, improved and maintained that roadway and determine how this could have happened. We should further investigate the parameters under which routine inspections are done on our infrastructure assets. If we have unqualified people performing these inspections – which I think is the only inference we can draw from what we know at this time, then we need to address that immediately.
This closure is going to prove to be one of the most economically devastating events for our state, particularly for the businesses, schools and restaurants in our municipalities on the other side of the Bay. It will also have a permanent impact on our hospital and healthcare systems as habits, practitioners and patients will all be changing over the next several weeks and months to overcome this geographic isolation.
Let us not stop asking the questions, “What if this young engineer didn’t observe what the inspectors missed? Would we be dealing with a mass-casualty event? How many more pins are sheered across our state?” Let’s get answers from the people who owe us answers and invoke the full authority of the House Oversight Committee to hold administration officials and department leaders responsible.
The 2023 Rhode Island House of Representatives Minority Caucus (Republican) is comprised of the following elected members representing constituents who live in the following districts throughout the Ocean State: Minority Leader, Michael Chippendale, District 40 (Foster, Glocester, Coventry); Minority Whip David Place, District 47 (Burrillville, Glocester); Representative George Nardone, District 28 (Coventry); Representative Brian Newberry, District 48 (North Smithfield, Burrillville); Representative Robert Quattrocchi, District 41 (Scituate, Cranston); Representative Sherry Roberts, District 29 (Coventry, West Greenwich) Representative Brian Rea, District 53 (Glocester, Smithfield). For more information on the House Minority Caucus, please visit www.rihousegop.org
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