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Traffic jammed in Rhode Island

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As we hear today about the departure of a critic from RIPTA's board, it remains clear that Rhode Island has a long way to go when it comes to offering a better statewide approach to transportation. Amy Littlefield writes about this topic in this week's Phoenix:

Our traditional reliance on the car is also taking a toll on the environment. More than a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island, for example, are caused by the transportation sector, most of it from cars and trucks. And sprawling development, made possible by the rise of the automobile, costs the state more money, threatens Rhode Island’s traditional character, and has left thousands of lots vacant in the state’s five core cities.

To make matters worse, Rhode Island’s transportation infrastructure is literally falling apart, with weight restrictions having been placed on at least two major bridges, includ-ing one on Interstate 95 in Pawtucket.

Public transit advocates point to the Ocean State’s small size in touting its potential to become a place with a cooler and more effective approach to transit, encompassing light rail, faster bus service, and other innovations.

Scott Wolf, executive director of the advocacy group Grow Smart Rhode Island, calls public transportation “the major missing ingredient in making Rhode Island a smart growth leader. Denser “smart growth” development, he says, in which people work and shop closer to home — a familiar pattern for some Providence residents — could improve air quality, cut com-muting time, and stimulate economic growth.

For now, though, the state’s inability to move forward is symbolized by how funding is waning for perennially cash-strapped RIPTA — when its service is needed more than ever — since it is funded through the gas tax. And with the state facing a continued budget crisis, any significant changes remain a long way off.

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