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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — As a significant snowstorm heads to Rhode Island, officials say they are focused on timing, with potential heavy snowfall starting mid-morning through the early afternoon.
The state has hundreds of plows on standby to clear the roads once that snow starts piling up.
“We have 450 plows available, 60 tons of salt, and we’re ready for the storm,” said Governor Dan McKee.
Rhode Island Energy is bringing in an additional 75 crews from out of state to help with any power outages from the storm.
During a press conference Monday, officials stressed the importance of preparing now with anything you may need, like batteries, food, water, pet supplies, gas, and prescriptions.
Officials also emphasized the importance of staying off the roads if possible once the snow starts hitting Southern New England.
Regarding the Washington Bridge, McKee said the state will be putting extra resources there.
“We are going to make sure we have the equipment there to make sure that that is clear,” McKee said. “And I think the plowing will work, but also we’ll have to make sure that we have the equipment there to make sure we’re keeping that as clear as possible.”
McKee said he is in contact with Massachusetts and Connecticut officials about possible traffic restrictions.
“We have similar routes that go through our state,” McKee said. “And we’re trying to figure out what makes sense.”
McKee collaborated with neighboring states in his decision to impose a partial travel ban directed at tractor-trailers.
Meanwhile, some schools already called snow days as of Monday afternoon.
“It all depends on what happens statewide,” said Angélica Infante-Green, Rhode Island’s Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “So if there’s a decision of something taking place statewide, obviously that will supersede any of the local decisions.”
“But some districts may do virtual,” Infante-Green elaborated. “Some districts make choose to make up the day or some districts may call it a day all together.”
The Department of Housing is also activating its emergency pop up shelters, you can find a full list on its website.
When you die, it’s your choice. There’s cremation, embalming, caskets and coffins, or you could just go in ground. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, a few new choices could soon be legalized.
If you want your remains to join your family garden or even your favorite house plant: legislators are moving to legalize human composting.
Since 2020, seven states have legalized “natural organic reduction,” which essentially means composting a human body. The composting is part of an accelerated process to make a nutrient-rich soil from human remains, which takes about four to six weeks.
The human body is placed in a large tank with warm air and wood chips, and — much like a regular compost — the material is turned until a soil is formed. According to Earth Funeral, which has human composting facilities on the West Coast, the process yields a cubic yard of soil.
Washington was the first state to legalize human composting, in 2020. The practice is also legal in Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, New York, and Nevada.
Earth Funeral calls human composting the most sustainable urban funeral process, noting its relies on renewable energy and releases no CO2 emissions.
Rhode Island’s state legislature is hearing the bill to allow human composting for the second year in a row, the Providence Journal reported. In Massachusetts, where the idea is also on its second try in the chamber, lawmakers want to take it a step further to legalize water cremation.
In addition to composting, Massachusetts’s “environmentally-friendly burial alternatives” bill would also legalize alkaline hydrolysis, which is defined as the reduction of human remains to bone fragments using heat, pressure, water and base chemical agents.
Alkaline hydrolysis is more widely practiced than human composting, but it’s still not legal in every state.
This “water cremation” is more environmentally friendly than traditional cremation and burial by using less fuel and reducing its carbon footprint, according to the Cremation Association. Family members can receive pure white remains after the process.
The bill in the Massachusetts State Senate was sent to committee this week, meaning it may not see session this year.
While the practices are environmentally friendly, some religions don’t approve. The Catholic Church, for example, said last year that both practices do not align with their doctrines, meaning “they fail to manifest the respect for last remains that Catholic faith requires.”
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Under the plans announced Wednesday, the temporary bypass lanes will get a 50 percent boost in capacity in both directions.
âWe know that adding 50 percent capacity to what is there right now is going to save a considerable amount of time,â RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said at a State House news conference announcing the plan.
In originally announcing the closure, the state said it would take about three months to repair. That estimate went out the window weeks ago: After finding more problems in the bridge, the state now says it may have to replace the entire westbound span, and expects to get reports back on it by late February or early March. Meanwhile workers will now spend about the next eight weeks, depending on weather and other factors, reconfiguring the roadway in a way that would benefit commuters no matter what the ultimate outcome is on the westbound side.
Alviti on Wednesday declined to offer more specifics when pressed by reporters about when the state would know what would be required to get the westbound side back open again, or about the likelihood that itâll have to be rebuilt.
A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said putting the plan in place required studying feasibility, as well as getting federal approval, which is why itâs taken until now to do it.
The state is fitting the new lanes in by reducing their width by two feet, to 10 feet. Trucks will be restricted to the rightmost lane, which will be 11 feet wide. And the speed limit on the bypass lanes will be reduced to 40 miles per hour.
The DOT also said that because of the new eastbound configuration, traffic from South Water Street and India Street in Providence will need to yield when entering the highway, which could cause delays for drivers on the ramp to 195 east at rush hour.
Work will begin Monday with design and ordering materials, the state said. The construction will move the start of bypass lanes in East Providence about 3,000 feet west of where it is now.
State officials said the new traffic pattern should reduce travel times and ease spillover congestion on local streets, although exactly how much remains to be seen. Some people who are opting for different routes right now may go back on the bridge once the third lanes are open, which would increase traffic.
âIt certainly will improve travel time,â said Governor Dan McKee, who also remarked that wasnât going to talk about travel time as much as he had in the past, given the criticism of his previous statement that the closure was adding just 10 to 15 minutes to peopleâs commutes.
Brian Amaral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @bamaral44.
Many Rhode Islanders are understandably focused on a key piece of our stateâs physical infrastructure, the Washington Bridge, since a portion has been closed for months, creating frustrating disruptions in many peopleâs daily commutes to work.
Another piece of our stateâs critical infrastructure that is essential to working families and our economy is also facing significant stresses: Our child-care infrastructure, which also requires ongoing investments to address. Just like roads and bridges, child care allows Rhode Island families to get to work. When high-quality, affordable child care is not available, it forces Rhode Island families, particularly women, to reduce the hours they work, or leave the workforce altogether to care for their young children. This has real impacts: On families, employers and businesses, and Rhode Islandâs economy.
Still recovering from the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rhode Islandâs child-care sector remains in distress. Many child-care providers are having to absorb higher costs due to inflation, while also dealing with an early educator staffing crisis. In 2022, the median wage for Rhode Islandâs child care-educators was just $13.97/hour, less than fast-food and retail workers. As a result of this low pay, many skilled and experienced child-care educators are leaving the field for higher paying jobs in other sectors.
When a child care-worker leaves the sector and cannot be replaced, it often forces providers to close classrooms or reduce enrollment in existing classrooms to meet educator-to-child staff-ratio requirements. When a classroom closes or reduces enrollment, it creates even longer waitlists for Rhode Island families who are desperately looking for quality child-care options that engage their child and help them get to work. Indeed, it is not uncommon for child-care programs to have more than 100 families on a waitlist.
At the same time that providers and child-care educators are facing these challenges, too many Rhode Island families are struggling to afford the cost of child care. According to Child Care Aware, the average cost of child care in Rhode Island is more than $13,000 per year. That equals 13 percent of family income for married Rhode Island couples, and a whopping 42 percent of family income for a single parent. According to a national benchmark, families should spend no more than 7 percent of income on child care.
Fortunately, Rhode Island leaders including Governor Dan McKee, Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and the General Assembly have been investing in our child-care infrastructure to keep the system from collapsing. These investments have included increased rates for child-care providers, wage supplements and bonuses for child-care educators, increased funding for Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, and expanded eligibility for the stateâs Child Care Assistance Program.
One example of an innovative investment is a new Child Care for Child Care Educators pilot program included in the FY 2024 state budget. The program provides low-cost child care for child-care workers who have young children themselves, but who previously could not afford the cost of child care, forcing them to leave the workforce. Thanks to this pilot, more than 390 child-care educators are enrolled in the program and are able to stay in the child-care jobs that they love.
Several of these investments were made with federal pandemic funds that are expiring in 2024, yet the underlying challenges facing the child-care sector remain. That is why it is critical for our leaders to sustain and expand these investments in this yearâs state budget.
Specifically, the General Assembly should:
Making these investments in our stateâs care infrastructure are just as important as investments in our roads and bridges. They will provide quality learning opportunities for our young children, get our families to work, benefit Rhode Island employers, and strengthen our stateâs economy.
Put simply, child care is essential. Letâs make sure that infrastructure is solid and there to support our working families.
Lisa Hildebrand is executive director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, and Khadija Lewis Khan is director of Beautiful Beginnings Child Care in Providence.
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