Next week the state Department of Transportation (DOT) will take two days to conduct public hearings on the potential economic and environmental impact of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
Slated for Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. at the high school, the Tiverton hearing will convene the day after an identical hearing in Portsmouth. The Tiverton Town Council and toll opposition leaders would like to see that date pushed back. The Portsmouth hearing will take place on Monday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Portsmouth High School.
"One reason we have been trying to put the meeting off and why the DOT has not accepted that is because they have to have everything go through by August of 2013 or there won't be a toll on the bridge," said Rep. Jay Edwards during the meeting. "RIDOT is going to push this thing through."
In September DOT Director Michael P. Lewis said the hearings - a federally mandated step toward installing tolls on the bridge - would be the time to discuss environmental and economic impacts to the community. The details, however remain vague.
All testimony will be considered in determining a rate and placement for the toll.
At its Monday night meeting, the council unanimously agreed to request the meeting to be pushed back so that the public would have time to digest what happens in Portsmouth.
Council members and representatives for Tiverton's Sakonnet Toll Opposition Platform (STOP) Chee Laureanno and Joy Gilkeson complained the process seemed rushed and undefined.
"Where is the advertising for these [hearings]," asked Gilkeson, adding she had barely seen the two public hearings advertised. Gilkeson, however, has a plan. Armed with thousands of signatures and more than 100 letters speaking to how the bridge would personally impact them she wants to show the RIDOT in hopes it will reconsider.
The Tiverton STOP will meet tonight at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall, 343 Highland Road, to discuss its strategy in communicating the adverse affect a toll would have to residents and local business owners.
Gilkeson urged residents to submit personal letters detailing how their families and finances would be impacted. She also encouraged local small businesses to tell their story by submitting an Business Economic Impact Survey.
For more information on Tiverton STOP's efforts against the tolls, email tivertonSTOP@gmail.com.