Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority board of directors voted today during its monthly board meeting for as well as a request of the Rhode Island General Assembly to allow RITBA to set toll rates for the Mount Hope Bridge.
The rates that were approved by the board are The added revenue, RITBA says, will help pay for the $250 million needed to fund RITBA’s capital projects in the 10-year Renewal and Replacement Plan.
Importantly, the board also voted to rescind the toll changes on the Pell Bridge, which are effective July 1, should the Rhode Island General Assembly pass legislation in this session that would provide RITBA with “an alternative and sufficient source of revenue.”
Last month, the board had tabled a vote on a toll increase at the request of R.I. Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis, who is a voting RITBA board member. Since that January 18 meeting, the Governor has announced his support for legislation to transfer the ownership of the Sakonnet River Bridge and the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge to RITBA and to toll the former. The plan also includes the possibility of tolling I-95 at exit 3.
“The two bridges in our care require significant repair and maintenance work to ensure that they remain safe,” said David Darlington, chairman of the board, in a release “We believe it’s important to allow drivers impacted by the new rates a sufficient amount of time to plan their budgets for the new toll structure. Should the Turnpike and Bridge Authority be mandated to add tolls to other properties and that toll revenue suffices for all the assets in our care, then the tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge will automatically remain at their current levels.”
In October, RITBA held four meetings on Aquidneck Island, gathering opinions from businesses and residents about the feasibility of and increasing toll rates on the Newport Pell Bridge. There has also been talk and of putting tolls on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, which connects Portsmouth and Tiverton.
Darlington explained that a large contingent of the public support re-tolling the Mount Hope Bridge because they believe that Newport Pell Bridge users unfairly bear the revenue burden and that parity is overdue.