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House to Vote on Sakonnet Bridge Toll Thursday

The House of Representatives will vote on the 2013 budget bill on Thursday. Included in the bill is a proposal to toll the Sakonnet Bridge.

On Thursday, legislators will vote on the budget bill for fiscal year 2013, which  includes a provision to toll travelers that cross the Sakonnet Bridge.

State Senator Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton) has said the toll will hurt local businesses and residents, which is why he is not in favor of the proposal. 

Dipalma stated he is not optimistic about Thursday's outcome. East Bay representatives are a small percentage of the 75-member House.

The House will vote on the budget one article at a time, which will allow for debate and amendment to the individual components. The Senate will vote on the budget as a package.

“It’s a challenging situation,” said the senator.

If passed, the maintenance of Sakonnet River Bridge and Jamestown Bridge would be transferred from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to the Rhode Island Bridge and Transportation Authority (RIBTA).

The RIBTA is a quasi-governmental agency that is currently responsible for the maintenance of the Newport Bridge as well as the Mount Hope Bridge. The RIBTA funds the operating expenses through tolls on the Newport Bridge.

They are the only bridges in the state that are not maintained by RIDOT.

“[The state] does not have sufficient financial resources to assure the future maintenance and operation of the Sakonnet River Bridge,” reads the bill.

DiPalma said the Mount Hope Bridge and Newport Bridge are in good condition, but the state has not maintained the old Sakonnet River Bridge. .

“If the bridge was maintained, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” he said.

, Rep. Daniel Reilly spoke out against the provision and said it would impose an unfair tax on Aquidneck Island residents. 

“This will have an adverse impact on residents who use the bridge on a regular basis, harm local businesses both in terms of transporting goods and hurting the island’s tourism based economy,” Reilly told the committee.

Among the opposition to the , the , and town councils have all passed resolutions supporting competing legislation that would prohibit tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The Newport County Chamber of Commerce , and a was created this spring in opposition.

Middletown Town Council President Arthur Weber agreed the toll will have a negative impact on the community.

“It holds everyone hostage on the island with tolls required for the major entrance and egresses and will penalize all without an E-Z Pass,” said Weber.

DiPalma said it boils down to a matter of what is fair, and the proposal does not fix that issue.  

The bill reads, “The current toll structure places undue burden on the residents, businesses, and visitors who must use the Newport Bridge to access work, schools, shopping, and other essential services.”

DiPalma said the only positive aspect of the proposal is that extra toll revenue would be appropriated to road work in other cities and towns in the East Bay. He said approximately 40 percent of the Sakonnet Bridge traffic is out-of-state travelers. 

Reilly disagreed the appropriations would work out in the favor of Aquidneck Island residents.

“It is not fair for residents of Middletown and Portsmouth to pay tolls that could subsidize road work in towns as far away as Jamestown, Warren or Barrington,” said Reilly.

Once the bill is approved by the House of Representatives, it will be passed to the Senate.

too smart to live in portsmouth June 06, 2012 at 08:55 PM
why does rhode island have a bridge and turnpike athority? the only turnpike in r i is the new london turnpike. it is a dirt road with no toll. more union means less services for the public
Robin Jenkins Furze June 07, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I live in Tiverton and have a business in Bristol which means I would pay tolls twice a day on possibly two bridges in my commute and my customers would have to do the same, therefor deterring them from visiting Bristol. With this economy it has been very challenging for all trying to regain and strengthen our Businesses - therefor the added toll is a burden to many and should be reconsidered.
Kirt Medeiros June 07, 2012 at 01:11 PM
If Sakonnet River Bidge is transferred to bridge authority and a toll is imposed. I will be doing all my business in Mass...
RCR June 07, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Reps, look for a new job.That includes the Govenor and his crowd too. Who says the Newport/Pell bridge is good look at the patchwork of repairs from make work projects not repair for repair sake. Bah Humbug to the house and senate they do not deserve capital letters.
Themomma June 07, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Go ahead - charge the toll. I won't pay it. I commute to Bristol every day and I don't care if it costs me more in time and gas to drive all the way around through Fall River - I refuse to give the toll money to this backwards state. Everyone has been pleading with Governor Dingbat to consider the impact this will have on businesses in the East Bay. As usual, it falls on deaf ears.
Rug Doctor June 07, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Tiverton is only connected to RI by the bridge. Tiverton needs to leave the state of RI and be part of MA. If MA will take us.
Steven Heck June 07, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Fully agree Rug. It's obvious Rhode Island doesn't care about Tiverton anymore, except as a piggybank. If this toll is created, the people of Tiverton should very seriously consider switching back to Massachusetts (Tiverton was originally part of Massachusetts back when the town was founded). Could this be added to the ballot in November? Interesting enough, Rep. Edwards echoed a similar sentiment on the front page of the Sakonnet Times today. Maybe there is some traction in this? I didn't see it on the Sakonnet Times website but it appears in the paper version, so I'll include the relevent quote from Rep. Edwards below. "When they put a toll on that bridge, it's going to totally isolate the people of Tiverton and Little Compton. They might as well cede the two towns back to Massachusetts."
RI Politics June 07, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Stop whining and call the speaker and the other state reps. I did and some agreed. The more calls the better. The vote is tonight. Call speaker fox now.
Rug Doctor June 07, 2012 at 06:47 PM
I would rather have Tiverton back in MA. My taxes will be lower and I can watch RI sink below the waves....
Nancy R June 07, 2012 at 07:25 PM
This is a time for action and not complaining. Everyone needs to email all the house of reps now!!! Google - State of RI general assembly representatives - clickhttp://www.rilin.state.ri.us/House/ Go to contact list - http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Email/RepEmailListDistrict.asp and download into excel then you can copy all the email addresses and put in one email expressing your views on the bridge tolls and tell them to vote NO!! Time of action is now
RI Politics June 07, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Don't email. CALL. They are almost in session. Call their offices and their cells. The legislation needs to come out of the budget. Don't be fooled by a vote on the amendment alone. They need to vote down the budget for it to really lose. My guess is that the other reps in the state don't care.
Joe Sousa. June 07, 2012 at 08:37 PM
The General Assembly is in session . Hold on to your wallet!
dajspi June 07, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I vote for Massachusetts.. throw in Little Compton too! Actually, do we get a choice of a state? Let's become part of Texas!
Shades of Gray June 08, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Bridge tolls are a bunch of balony! Why are bridges any different than maintaining roadways all over the state? We pay state taxes to maintain the roadways statewide, so why don't those taxes get applied to the bridges as well? It shouldn't matter if the road goes over a bridge or not. It's part of the state system.
Gerry Jones June 10, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Shades, I agree. We should seriously look at joining Massachusetts. It is obvious that RI no longer cares about us.
Adam June 11, 2012 at 01:05 PM
be careful what you wish for (re: joining Mass.). The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

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