Roughly half of Rhode Islanders would have to stop driving their cars to get the state to invest substantially in other modes of transit like buses, trains, and more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.

That is not going to happen, Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) officials made clear at the Transportation Advisory Committee’s (TAC) at its Oct. 26 meeting with climate and transit activists to review the state’s preliminary Carbon Reduction Plan.

The plan includes $7.1 million toward bike path maintenance and $600,000 for sidewalks. But it lacks a commitment to conduct an emissions reduction analysis, said Emily Koo, senior policy director and Rhode Island program director for the Maine-based Acadia Center, who attended the Oct. 26 meeting.

“It is complex, of course, to understand how different projects would reduce emissions, but there needs to be some effort to do that,” she said in an interview.

Koo questioned the methodology behind how RIDOT measures cost-effectiveness of certain strategies.

On page 25 of the draft plan, Koo pointed out a table which compares categories of emissions reduction strategies like electric buses and “pedestrian investment.” The comparison, based on the state’s 2021 Clean Transportation and Mobility Innovation Report, offers gradients of cost-effectiveness with one, two or three plus signs, or an “NA.”

“It’s very hard to understand how you would use that to weigh projects in any way,” Koo said. “So bicycle investments have three plus signs for health benefits and traffic improvements have three for jobs. Which do you prioritize?”

Flaherty and Koo also remain uneasy on whether RIDOT will truly incorporate public comment into its final report to the Federal Highway Administration.

To read the full article from the Rhode Island Current, click here.