PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A proposal to merge the state’s transportation agencies was overwhelmingly shot down by members of a union representing the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) Friday evening.
The Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 618 & 618A, which represents most RIPTA employees, argues that the roles of RIPTA and RIDOT are completely different.
Union President Thomas Cute said while RIDOT is in charge of rehabilitating and maintaining highways, bridges, roads, and construction, RIPTA is more of a “people-moving business.”
RIDOT says the restructuring of the agencies could improve the quality, cost and reliability of public transportation statewide, but Cute said he fears it could jeopardize RIPTA’s federal funding.
“All those federal funds get utilized for transit projects like buying buses, rehabilitation of existing equipment. There’s money in the budget for rehabilitating the plaza and the tunnel up here,” Cute said. “We feel that shouldn’t change.”
Cute said RIPTA is expecting approximately $40 million from the Federal Transit Administration this year alone. He said the proposed merger would stop them from utilizing that money, and if it’s not used, he said those funds would be given to another state.
“Any of the monies that come here, we directly spend,” Cute explained. “That creates jobs and opportunity. It gives the bus rider a better experience with the equipment that we have.”
Meantime, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti told Eyewitness News on Wednesday the proposed merger could actually lead to an increase in federal funding, which he said could allow the state to make improvements to public transit.
“We can bring the resources necessary to implement a much more robust implementation of transit in the state,” he said.
Eyewitness News reached out to RIDOT for comment on the vote but has yet to hear back.