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VIDEO: Politicians Voice Out Against Bridge Tolls

Friday's rally against the Sakonnet River Bridge Tolls brought out hundreds of residents and a handful of Rhode Island candidates in this election year.

Friday's rally proved that the Sakonnet River Bridge toll would definitely be an election issue for Newport County voters - if not for voters statewide.

Scattered among the demonstrators on East Main Road in front of on Friday in Portsmouth were town council members, state General Assembly candidates, and even a U.S. Senate hopeful.

"Obviously this is a win-win situation fighting against the tolls because there is no reason not to, we have everything to lose," said Dennis Canario, a Democrat from Portsmouth seeking the Dist. 71 seat to represent Portsmouth, Tiverton and Little Compton.

"It is about the tolls," agreed Joseph Sousa, who is running for Tiverton Town Council. "But for those of us who have lived here almost all of our lives and watched the Sakonnet River Bridge fall apart, it feels like being punched in the face. The 54-cent per gallon gas tax should be used to pay for the bridge instead of on the backs of East Bay wallets again."

Politicians from Portsmouth and Tiverton backed their constituents concerns over the rising cost of commuting to work, connecting elderly residents - many of whom are on fixed incomes - to resources in surrounding communities, and a fear that tourism would suffer after the tolls are installed.

"One thing people don't thing about is the fact that there are a lot of people who who need to commute to Fall River because they are sick and need medical treatment," said Canario. "Usually people that sick are out of work and this could be devastating to those folks."

Portsmouth resident Janet Linhares, who works a the , said the tolls would take $500 - $600 annually from her paycheck.

But besides paying more to travel to work and doctor's appointments, a Stafford Road woman worried about being further isolated from family, her church and friends who live on the other side of the bridge.

Elaine Berry, who lives on Stafford Road in Tiverton, held her sign high on Friday afternoon, because with ties both sides of Sakonnet River, if tolls are ultimately installed, she said something would have to give.

"I am very active in my church and I have already given up some volunteer work because gas keeps going up and I'm on a limited income," she said. Berry's church is located in Portsmouth. "Consider for the individual person what this is going cause."

Berry said relocating because of the tolls would not help her plight because her children live north of Sakonnet River.

The new Sakonnet River Bridge is slated to open over the next month, but tolls would likely not be installed until next summer. The charge would be the same as Newport's Claiborne Pell Bridge:  $4 for non-residents and drivers without an EZ Pass and 83 cents each way for Rhode Island EZ Pass holders.

"This is a failure in leadership because we collect more money, we have the highest regional tax rate in the country and we for some reason need more money," said Barry Hinckley, a Republican from Newport, who is pitted against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in his first-ever bid for an elected position.

Rep. Daniel P. Gordon, Jr. (R-Dist. 71) also attended Friday's rally. Although Gordon failed to gain enough signatures to appear on the ballot and will not return the state legislature when it resumes in January, he criticized the political handling of the bridge toll.

"I have seen a lot a East Bay legislators on the campaign trail against tolls when in fact they voted in favor of the budget where the toll provision was contained," said Gordon.

Gordon voted unsuccessfully against Article 20 and later voted against the budget, which contained the provision to allow tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. 

"When we go back into session, we need to repeal Article 20 of the budget and enact a new law renouncing tolls and explore using state infrastructure banks," said Gordon.

According to Gordon, state infrastructure banks are revolving loan funds for transportation projects that are currently used by many states to offset the costs of major reconstruction projects.

Joe Sousa. August 13, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Send those emails to Whitehouse Reed and Cicilline I sent this Email out to our congressional leaders . Send that email now and we have a chance to stop this. The transfer of the bridges requires Federal approval . We need you to step in to stop this transfer. The Federal Highway Admin. has the application . We need action fast to stop this from happening. This will hurt businesses on and off the island. It's not to late to stop this plan and save our businesses . Joe Sousa.
Jim L August 14, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Any one running for office who doesn't say they will work to repeal article 20 should not be recieving your vote, they have signed onto what ever deal was made upstate, mitagate my vote doesn't mitigate' never will i voye to carry the bridges that need painting on the backs of my fellow citizens in Newport county, NEVER, NO tolls
Jim L August 14, 2012 at 01:24 AM
As my dad would say " don't pee on my head and tell me it's raining" this is a complete of local reps bowing to the powers upstate for what just to get rellected, not one vote should go to anyone who excepts this, thet have taken care of themselves not us the voters, yoo hoo you know who i speak of step up and tell us why you did this
Jim L August 14, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Any one who follows the patch knows who i am and what i stand for, and i feel on this i stand for every voter in the Tiverton, Little Compton local it will just hammer us, property taxes will rise, cost of goods will rise, sending your kids to college will rise, businesses in the east bay will lose tourist and daytripper dollars , you wanna go to grays? with an $8.00 dollar toll?, why advertise in any thing off the island thats money your spending to lure folks into paying an $8.00 dollar fee just to get to Tiverton , Little compton, gee why is Jim l so POod, because it's totaly unfair period
Joe Sousa. August 14, 2012 at 09:44 AM
Jim, why would a parent from Tiverton even consider sending their child to URI when the two tolls would cost twelve hundred a year extra ? Gov Gump dumb as a stump!
Naome Lixes August 14, 2012 at 10:42 AM
http://www.ritba.org/nbtolls.html .83x4 = 3.32 per day 3.32x180 = 597.60 per year When the numbers get larger than twelve, feel free to take off your shoes - so you can keep up. Or pile ammo in neat little stacks, or make a scrap yard abacus - ya know, all the stuff they teach you in high finance?
Mike August 14, 2012 at 01:10 PM
No one has answered one of my questions yet. How is RI residency determined for the purpose of assessing the toll? Is owning a home in Tiverton enough, or does my car have to be registered in RI as well? To establish EZPass "residency," you must show a utility or tax bill, according to the Authority. Assuming if I show my electric and Tiverton property tax bill for my weekend house, I can get an EZPass and pay 83 cents per trip even though my primary residence is in MA and my car is registered in MA. Am I correct, or is there a catch? Thanks!
Joe Sousa. August 14, 2012 at 03:10 PM
MikeThe toll price is not determined yet. On the Newport bridge you can purchase a monthly pass for $40 dollars that gives you unlimited access . I assume that will be available if the toll is put on this bridge. You don't have to be a resident to obtain it according to MR Dalington RITBA.
Mike August 14, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Thanks, Joe, but that's not my question. Question is, does RIBTA consider me a resident for toll assessment purposes? If I read the guidelines correctly, I believe I am considered a resident since I would provide property tax and utility bills for the Tiverton house (the bills are in my name).
Joe Sousa. August 15, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Dear Mr. Sousa: Thank you for contacting me regarding the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority's (RITBA) decision to install tolls on the new Sakonnet River Bridge. I appreciate hearing from you. On your behalf, I have taken the liberty of sharing your concerns with RITBA. Please be assured that I will carefully review any response that I receive with your comments in mind and forward any information that may be useful to you. Again, thank you for contacting me, and do not hesitate to write, call, or visit my website, www.reed.senate.gov, in the future for information regarding this or any other matter. Sincerely, Jack Reed United States Senator http://reed.senate.gov

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