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Washington Bridge crisis prompts call for emergency declaration in East Providence

EAST PROVIDENCE – The City Council president says problems caused by the partial closure of the Washington Bridge are so bad that Gov. Dan McKee should declare a state of emergency.

“Currently, I am not looking to assess blame, but I believe that the crisis has reached an emergency situation which calls for federal assistance,” Council President Bob Rodericks wrote Thursday in a letter to McKee. “Accordingly, I respectfully request that you consider enacting a ‘State of Emergency’ declaration.”

Rodericks said the Rhode Island Department of Transportation appears stretched beyond capacity dealing with the bridge repairs and all the other highway projects happening in the state.

More: Q&A on the Washington Bridge investigation: Why are the feds looking for?

“Possibly the US Army Corps of Engineers can expedite the bridge repairs alongside our RIDOT,” Rodericks wrote. “The Rhode Island National Guard could also help with traffic control to assist with local East Providence Police efforts during peak hours of gridlock.”

At the same time, he suggested the state should “pause all non-emergency DOT projects throughout R.I. and concentrate all its resources into fixing the Washington Bridge.”

The underside of the western span of the Washington Bridge.

“All efforts need to be focused on this major catastrophe. The everyday livelihood has affected many city, state and regional residents,” he added.

The state DOT on Friday said that a group of engineering consultants working on a plan to fix the westbound Washington Bridge are expected to deliver a report by the end of February or early March.

More: East Bay lawmakers want answers regarding Washington Bridge closure, repair timeline

Meanwhile, House Republican leader Michael Chippendale reacted to the news Friday that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating allegations of false claims for work done on the bridge, calling it “encouraging.”

“How we most efficiently and safely overcome the bridge failure must remain our primary focus, but this review by the Inspector General serves to demonstrate how seriously the federal government is taking this matter,” Chippendale, R-Foster, wrote. “It also validates the ongoing calls Rhode Island Republicans have been making for an independent Office of Inspector General here in Rhode Island.”

The federal False Claims Act probe is being led by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, but a demand for the state’s records in the case was delivered by a representative of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s office of inspector general, McKee spokeswoman Andrea Palagi said Saturday.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Washington Bridge crisis sparks call for emergency declaration

Originally Appeared Here

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