Vice President Joe Biden came to East Providence on Friday to hail the RhodeWorks bridge-repair plan signed into law earlier this year.
Biden says investing in infrastructure shows leadership and offers a variety of benefits.
“No one’s making minimum wage surveying the new road," Biden told a small audience in a state DOT maintenance facility on Warren Avenue in East Providence. "They’re making a wage you can raise a family on. This is about economic dynamism, competitiveness, this is about safety, productivity. It’s about the kind of country we want to be.”
The event came exactly one year after Governor Gina Raimondo unveiled a plan to fix bridges considered among the worst in the nation. House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello put the brakes on the effort until changes led a revised plan to speed through the legislature early in this session. The governor's office said the timing is a coincidence.
Biden said he'd heard about the criticism faced by Raimondo over the plan that includes imposing new tolls on large trucks. The trucking industry has indicated a legal challenge is likely once the new tolls are implemented. Critcs also predict that tolls will lead to price increases for consumer goods, and they express concern that tolls will be extended to passenger cars.
Yet Biden said Rhode Island is doing the right thing, and that a failure to improve decaying infrastructure is an impediment to economic growth. The vice president began his visit by touring a highway overpass on Warren Avenue supported by wood braces -- he called them "Lincoln Logs."
Besides new tolls, the bridge-repair plan is being funded by borrowing against future federal transportation aid.
Rhode Island's congressional delegation attended the event. Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed were not at the event.
Mattiello's spokesman said the speaker was kept away by a combination of necessary work for his private legal practice and discussions about the state budget. Paiva Weed's spokesman would say only that her schedule did not allow her to attend.