Westerly council asks lawmakers for help with roads and bridges, blocking rail plan

Westerly council asks lawmakers for help with roads and bridges, blocking rail plan

Record-Journal
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Westerly Town Hall.

WESTERLY — Funding for road, bridge and other infrastructure projects as well as assistance fighting the Federal Railroad Administration’s plan to reroute train tracks were the top priorities Monday when the town’s state legislative delegation appeared before the Town Council.

The delegation, which currently consists of state Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, state Rep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, state Rep. Samuel Azzinaro, D-Westerly, and state Rep. Blake Filippi, R-Block Island, meets annually with the council toward the beginning of the General Assembly’s new session.

“We know how important it is, and we know the council has made infrastructure improvements a priority,” Algiere said.

Councilor Mario Celico asked for help with the deteriorating conditions on Main Street, saying the roadway needs a complete overhaul. Algiere acknowledged the poor condition of the road but noted that despite its designation as a state road, maintenance for it is the responsibility of the town. Nevertheless, Algiere said he expects to soon meet with state Department of Transportation officials in the hope of securing funds for both Main Street and additional funds to replace the underground stormwater culvert in the downtown area. The culvert, which runs from in front of the U.S. Post Office on High Street down to the Pawcatuck River, ruptured in 2014. Since then it has been held together by a temporary patch. Algiere previously secured funds for engineering work associated with replacing the culvert and is now looking for funds to help defray the town’s construction costs. The project is estimated to require about $1 million to complete.

The delegation will also seek funding to help with repair of the Stillman Avenue Bridge, Algiere said. Officials from Westerly and Stonington have agreed to collaborate on the project.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation rated the bridge as being in serious need of repair in August and later recommended reducing the weight load to 20 tons from 40 tons.

Algiere is also working on finding a tenant for a portion of the vacant train station as a means to give passengers access to shelter and bathrooms.

While Algiere said he generally supports the use of rail, the Federal Railroad Administration’s plan is troubling to him.

“We too share the concerns, not only of this council but councils throughout the region ... we are concerned about the impact the proposed plan has environmentally on our communities,” Algiere said.

Kennedy related a conversation he had with U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-2nd District, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed in December during a trip to Washington, D.C. The talk focused on the estimated $2.4 billion cost of the project, which the railroad administration has floated as a means reduce travel time between Washington and Boston.

“Sen. Reed did point out to me that if you look at the price tag the chances of that money materializing out of thin air anytime soon is between slim and none ... that’s a lot of money to cut 45 minutes off the trip,” Kennedy said.

Azzinaro pointed to Electric Boat’s announcement Monday of its future expansion plans and noted the first class of students training for positions with the submarine manufacturer started at the Westerly Higher Education and Job Skills Center on Friendship Street on the same day.

dfaulkner@thewesterlysun.com


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