November ballot asks voters if state can borrow $177M for projects

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PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
VOTER’S TRUST? Jack McCormack, site manager for the Fort Adams Land Trust, walks through a casemate, which was designed to house cannons. A bond referendum will ask voters to approve $1.5 million for Fort Adams renovations.
IMAGE COURTESY URI
CENTER OF ATTENTION: A rendering of the proposed Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences at the University of Rhode Island. In November, voters will be asked to approve $61 million for its construction.
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Posted 9/27/10

The project’s design and construction would generate about 950 jobs. The building would open in the spring of 2014.

The first question also includes $17 million for the renovation and possible expansion of the Art Center at Rhode Island College in Providence. Built initially as a student center in the 1950s, the building’s power system cannot support computers necessary for today’s graphic design and photography classes, forcing the college to host those classes elsewhere.

“We’re hard-pressed to find another room to put another class in,” art department Chairman Bill Martin said. About 2,000 students each academic year take art-department classes.

Moving on down the ballot, voters will find a question authorizing $80 million for repairs to the state’s roadways and bridges and $4.7 million for new or upgraded buses for the R.I. Public Transit Authority. The roadway money will provide a state match necessary to leverage about $160 million in federal money each year, said Robert Shawver, administrator of the Planning and Finance Division at the R.I. Department of Transportation.

The legislature has traditionally declined to use money from the general fund to match federal dollars and that leaves the DOT with few other options than to borrow, Shawver said.

The DOT relies on federal money to pay for virtually every project from road resurfacing to bridge work. Major projects on the drawing board include the replacement of the Providence Viaduct carrying Interstate 95 by Providence Place as well as the bridge carrying the highway over the Pawtucket River.

Voters will also find a request for a combined $14.7 million to purchase two properties bordering Narragansett Bay and to repair Fort Adams.

The Rocky Point land has sat largely barren since the amusement park went bankrupt in 1995 and various development plans fizzled out. Now is the time to buy, said John Howell, president of the Rocky Point Foundation, a group calling for the land’s preservation.

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