R.I. Infrastructure Bank to launch $1M infrastructure grant program with legislative funding

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank will soon be launching a new grant program to help cities, towns and other public organizations pay for major infrastructure upgrades.

The bank’s board of directions in a meeting on Sept. 20 unanimously voted to approve the new Municipal Infrastructure Grant Fund, according to Suh Walker, executive assistant to CEO Jeffrey R. Diehl. The fund will start with $1 million included in the state’s fiscal 2022 budget.

The program aims to spur economic development through public infrastructure upgrades across a wide array of areas, including streets, drinking water and wastewater treatment, parking and transit. A prior version of the grant program existed under the R.I. Department of Administration but was unfunded, so no money was given out, according to Shaun O’Rourke, the bank’s managing director.

O’Rourke, in an interview with PBN, called the program an “appropriate fit” for the bank  to take ownership of, given its existing array of infrastructure-focused loan and grant programs.

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With the board of directors’ approval, the bank will develop rules and regulations for the program and, potentially, more-specific types of infrastructure it hopes to fund. As of Sept. 24, there was no set timeline for when the bank would begin taking bids for grant funding, O’Rourke said.

“We recognize there’s a broad opportunity here,” he said. “$1 million is great and we want to make sure we’re putting it to its highest and best use.”

The program as written is similar to one in Massachusetts known as MassWorks. Since being reauthorized by Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker in 2016, the Bay State program has invested $533 million across 157 communities, the Boston Business Journal reported. Baker under his five-year capital plan has proposed an additional $94 million for the program.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.