McKee Administration to Pursue Federal Mega Grant to Fund Washington Bridge Construction

Published on Monday, May 06, 2024

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee today announced that the State of Rhode Island is pursuing a U.S. Department of Transportation National Infrastructure Project Assistance discretionary grant, also known as a Mega Grant, to fund 60% of the new Washington Bridge constructions costs.

The State’s application, which will include letters of support from the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation and private partners, will request $220.9 million in funding.  

The Mega Grant program, established under the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is designed to fund large, complex transportation projects that may be difficult to fund by other means and are likely to yield economic, mobility or safety benefits. The federal government will make $1.7 billion in Mega Grants available during this latest funding round. 

Also today, Governor McKee submitted a budget amendment to authorize a GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles) bond as another funding source for the bridge work. A GARVEE bond allows the State to borrow against future allocations of federal transportation infrastructure funding. This approach is designed for projects that require financial investments that exceed a state’s annual allocation of transportation funding. 

The budget amendment authorizes a GARVEE bond of up to $334.6 million to ensure enough financing for the bridge demolition and construction will be available if Rhode Island is not awarded a Mega Grant. It is important to note that the State would need to borrow considerably less than the full $334.6 million if it were awarded the Mega Grant.

Other funding sources identified to support the demolition and construction as part of a “belt and suspenders strategy” include: $37 million in repurposed federal funding awarded for the earlier work on the Washington Bridge, which was halted in December; $40 million in anticipated Motor Fuel Vehicle Tax revenues, where two cents of the gas tax is applied to debt service to support the issuance of bonds; $20 million in reallocated American Rescue Plan Act State Fiscal Recovery Funds (SFRF) as recommended in a recent budget amendment; and $23.6 million in other sources if additional dollars are needed beyond the gas tax and SFRF for state matching funds.

Since its initial estimates, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has updated its estimates for the costs of the bridge’s demolition and subsequent design-rebuild to include a change of scope, contingency dollars and construction incentives. The change of scope includes work on off- and on-ramps to the bridge itself. The new estimates are $40.52 million for the demolition and $368.3 million for the design-build process. The latest estimates were developed in consultation with GM2, RIDOT’s owner’s representative engineers for replacement project, and VN Engineers, RIDOT’s owner’s representative for the demolition project. As previously noted, estimates will change subject to the actual cost proposals submitted by the selected design-build teams. The contract bid price will then determine the final project costs.

Separate from the demolition and rebuild costs for the Washington Bridge, the State is currently estimating costs of approximately $46 million for emergency expenses, including work to stabilize the old bridge and estimated funding to account for both state and municipal safety and transportation-related expenses.