Board Tables Resolution Requesting Full RIPTA Funding
March 17, 2023
PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s board of directors, at its March 15 meeting, tabled a resolution that asks the governor, Senate president, and speaker of the House “to consider fully funding” the agency, which faces a looming fiscal cliff.
The resolution as it is currently written requests funding to protect RIPTA against budget shortages. It also asks state leaders to fund the Transit Master Plan, new buses, infrastructure construction and improvements, and green initiatives.
RIPTA took a major financial hit during the pandemic and has been surviving on federal funding, which will run out by 2025. The agency “has long had a systemic funding issue where no source of revenue keeps up with its expenditures,” according to the resolution. “If RIPTA was fully funded by the State of Rhode Island, RIPTA would not only be able to maintain existing service, but would also be able to expand and increase service frequencies in order to provide the best possible transit system for the riding public.”
“What the resolution is intending to do is just to give a broad scope of what the board would believe, based upon, what we’re telling you, are some of the priorities and how to go about attacking those priorities at the legislative level,” RIPTA’s chief legal counsel, Steven Colantuono, said at the recent meeting. “It is by no means meant to be a specific or particularized tool to ensure that everything is in here, but it’s a broad brush.”
RIPTA board member Patrick Crowley took issue with that lack of specificity, noting there were no dollar amounts attached to the resolution’s requests. He suggested tabling the resolution so it could be workshopped out of session.
Board chair Normand Benoit said he thought the resolution was “just the start” of a push for being fully funded, but also noted he would like to amend the resolution to address the General Assembly, as well as the legislative leaders and the governor.
After the board voted to table the resolution, Benoit appointed Crowley to work with RIPTA staff on the wording of the resolution and return with a second draft next month.
The board is expected to vote on a modified version of the resolution at its April 19 meeting.