The Providence Journal editorial board posted a piece praising Governor Gina Raimondo for her decision to ignore the public process and the recommendations of national and local experts to fast-track the reconstruction of the 6/10 Connector.
The Projo is, as a journalistic entity, free to make whatever statements it wants on any issue. The problem with the Projo’s editorial is that it is wrong on basic facts that all parties agree to. Quoth the Projo:
Gov. Gina Raimondo, thus, did the right thing by responding boldly to new evidence that bridges along that stretch are in perilous condition, putting the public’s safety at risk. She announced Wednesday that the state must repair these crumbling structures as quickly as possible.
In doing so, she had to pull the plug on an extravagant $595-million state Department of Transportation plan to cap the highway and knit back together neighborhoods that have been disconnected for decades with a new surface boulevard. That plan would have taken longer and cost more than simply fixing the bridges.
Three plans have been considered during the 6/10 Connector public process: rebuilding the highway as-is, rebuilding the highway with a cap over it at certain crossings, and a surface boulevard. The “rebuild with a cap” option, though better described as a highway plan, has been labeled by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) as a “highway-boulevard hybrid.” Hence the confusion.
Everyone agrees that the surface boulevard would be the cheapest option of the three. That option, as outlined by community group Fix the 6/10, would cut down the amount of infrastructure spending needed to complete the project, while restoring the grid to drivers:
Rebuilding a highway in the 6/10 corridor, especially if it involves a cap, will cost at least $600 million, hundreds of millions more than a surface alternative. A surface option will cost taxpayers much less, making resources available for other projects throughout the state. Further, the ongoing maintenance costs of the highway option will burden our children with billions of dollars of maintenance and replacement costs. A surface road option will also unlock dozens of taxable acres for development, improving the region’s fiscal health.
In a Cranston public forum on the 6/10 Connector, Eco RI news documented that RIDOT officials intentionally spun the capped highway option as best, holding information that would favor the surface boulevard close to their chest unless specifically grilled on it:
RIDOT officials routinely downplayed instances where the boulevard option compared favorably to the capped-highway idea. At the meeting in Olneyville, it wasn’t until ecoRI News asked about the relative costs of the options — more than an hour into the meeting — that RIDOT revealed the boulevard option would cost taxpayers less. The difference remains undetermined, as RIDOT hasn’t calculated the cost of the boulevard option.
If the Projo had made such an error in a news article, it would be a problem. But for an editorial whose thesis is that the governor is making the tough decisions needed to save money, mistaking two of the three options on the table for one another, and then getting the costs of the options wrong calls for a full retraction.