Dime toll voted by Rhode Island legislature for Sakonnet River Bridge August to April 2014, negating RITBA decision
By Peter Samuel
2013-07-11: First the Rhode Island legislature voted in a rider to a budget bill to postpone tolls on the Sakonnet River bridge from July 10 to February next year, during which time a legislative committee would examine tolls and alternate financing and recommend their future to lawmakers. But then legislative leaders had small second thoughts. And as of now state law provides for a dime toll to start August 19 and go through April next year.
At Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, the state toll authority they're not happy. They were all set to collect a 75c toll this month from locals and $5.25 from out-of-staters (first July 1, then July 10.)
RITBA officials say the delay will cost them about $13m.
And they question how they can sensibly collect a dime toll.
This at a new all-electronic toll point, where there will be a lot of video tolls.
10c is less than the cost of the postage to send a toll bill these days.
The dime toll is explained as a "placeholder toll" on an argument that the Feds (FHWA) could somehow intervene against tolling if tolling is ever ended completely - this is a new one to us, as the Feds have to our knowledge always been OK with bridge tolls (editor.)
Legislators can't make up their minds what they want. Until last year RITBA, the state toll authority only had two bridges the Newport Pell Bridge (tolled) and the Mt Hope Bridge (maintained with the profits of the Pell.)
The legislature transferred responsibility for the Sakonnet and the Jamestown bridges from Rhode Island DOT to RITBA in 2012, and specifically authorized tolls! The idea was to take some burden of bridge mainenance and rehabilitation off the tax-supported DOT.
Opened Sept 2012 free
The Sakonnet is a new replacement bridge which only opened September 2012. It was built for RIDOT at a cost of $120m.
3,160ft, 965m long its 2x2 lanes carry about 40,000 vehicles a day. Designated RI-24 this is a major link between Newport and other Aquidneck Island settlements and the Boston area to the immediate northeast.
The old steel truss bridge alongside that previously carried RI-24 is due to be demolished.
Tolls on the Sakonnet were recommended by Jacobs consultants as the best way for RITBA to fund an estimated $350m 10-year capital plan for all four bridges. These are bridges the legislature has made RITBA's responsibility.
"Without the implementation of tolling on the Sakonnet River Bridge, RITBA will be unable to pay for these necessary repairs," said Jacobs report of April 2 this year of the funding of the four bridges maintenance.
Familiar righteous free rider 'protesters' EDITORIALIZING!
There were anti-toll protests from some residents of Aquidneck Island. They claimed to have got 31,000 signatures to a petition against tolls.
Their arguments are the familiar anti-toll complaints that amount to nothing more than the protesters claiming the right to free rides over expensive bridges paid for by non-users far away.
Pure, unadulterated selfishness it is, though few dare to name it as such!
Wanting to live on a beautiful but expensive-to-service island with others footing their bills.
Yet of course like most such 'protests' it is presented with proclamations of victimization, and righteous indignation.
Governing from under a stone
State governor Lincoln Chafee has remained neutral, signing everything on tolls sent to him by legislators - however inconsistent and incoherent. And this 'leader' has said not a word on the toll policy chaos the legislators have wrought.
Jacobs on financing options
anti-toll protest groups:
RITBA board decision in April on the 75c/$5.75 tolls in July: