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Sakonnet River Bridge Tolls Are Another Cost To Local Businesses

The threat of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge and the inevitable increasing cost of the morning commute is inspiring residents to action and at least one business to move its shop.

The added cost of commuting to work that the Sakonnet River Bridge toll will add to Tiverton, Little Compton and Aquidneck Island residents is pushing business owners to move their stores closer to home and inspiring residents to fight back.

After operating for five years in Portsmouth, a Tiverton woman carted her entire inventory and clientele across the bridge rather than deal with the consequences of the proposed tolls.

"There are several reasons why I moved the store, the biggest being the [Sakonnet Bridge] tolls," said Swing during an interview at her store, , grand opening on Aug. 1. "I just bought a home here on Main Road passed Nanaquaket Pond in February and I wanted to be closer. I wanted to become more involved in my community and with the coming tolls, it just got to be too much."

Residents like Swing who work on one side of the river and reside on the other will have to budget for an additional $600 in transportation costs annually - provided that they are Rhode islands residents. The impact of the tolls to our Fall River and Massachusetts neighbors will be four times that. Out-of-state drivers who cross the bridge twice per day five times per week will spend as much as $2,400 per year.

"When you are a small business, you depend on every penny coming in to make ends meet," said Nancy Swing, who moved her natural science store, Natures! to Tiverton from Portsmouth earlier this month.

Swing isn't the only local to worry about the affect a toll bridge would put on their pocket book.

Jeanne Smith, a Portsmouth resident, works in Taunton four days per week and relies on the Sakonnet River Bridge to get her there. On The fifth day, she works in East Greenwich and pays the 83-cent toll on the Claiborne Pell Bridge instead. Smith owns property in Tiverton and her daughter lives there.

"I'm stuck," said Smith. "f you think about it, I'm not the only one. That is the kind of people affected. We have the high rollers here, but we're the little people and it's just to try to get to work."

Smith organized a rally against the tolls slated for today: Friday, Aug. 10 from 3-6 p.m. at Clement's Marketplace in Portsmouth. Protesters should gather their signs and discontent and meet in the parking lot, she said. The rally will coincide with a taping of WPRO's The Buddy Cianci show, which Smith said she hopes would help bring greater visibility to those opposed to the tolls.

She is also going door-to-door, business-to-business circulating a petition against the tolls.

"It is true that the Sakonnet River Bridge handles in excess of 40,000 cars a day, which is higher than the Jamestown and Newport bridges combined," said Robert L. Mushen, Little Compton Town Council president at a council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 9. "It is an almost irresistible source of funds."

The bridge, which is on schedule to have tolling booths installed by the summer of 2013, could easily garner more than tens of thousands in revenue daily. According to the state Department of Transportation, about 40 percent of vehicles crossing the Sakonnet River bridge are from out-of-state. The agency claims charging them to use the tolls would offset the cost of repairs to roads and bridges from Rhode Island taxpayers.

What residents and local government officials are asking now is what part of this burden should residents be expected to share.

"Are we going to take the approach that 83 cents is okay, or take approach that zero is okay," asked Mushen when a Little Compton resident requested the town assemble a committee to block the installation of tolls.

If tolls are installed on the Sakonnet River Bridge, Aquidneck Island residents would have to pay to pay in order to leave the island, while Tiverton and Little Compton residents would be cut off from the rest of Rhode Island.

"This is my story too - along with all other people who live on one side and work on the other side of this bridge," said Smith.

Joe Sousa. August 10, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Please park in the old gas station lot next door to keep the market lot open for customers..
Rug Doctor August 10, 2012 at 02:32 PM
The hacks at the state house care less about this part of the state. Tiverton and Little Compton are only connected to RI by the bridge.
Joe Sousa. August 10, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Doc we need Business people like you to call the Gov. office and tell him the facts. If enough businesses complain to the Gov. and Legislature we may have a chance to turn it around.
SC August 10, 2012 at 05:57 PM
If we collected tolls from only the out-of-state cars we'd meet our goal AND make our property values go up again because people would be interested in moving here.
Charles Walsh August 10, 2012 at 06:27 PM
What people are not stressing is the loss in business income for Aquidneck Islanders (and the State) from people from Tiverton, Little Compton, Fall River, N. Dartmouth and Westport, et al, who will take their business to Mass. I (and my health insurance company) spend thousands each year on the island. This money will now go to Mass. Clement's Market, and many other Island businesses will lose money. This will cost the state of RI a tremendous amount of money. Charlie Walsh
Kim B August 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
How do you think that would be fair to the Mass. residents that work on the island?
Jim L August 11, 2012 at 06:18 PM
The stupid hacks up state put this toll on any resident coming to Newport county for anything layers judges police , cioonsructios companys food trucks, bussines owners kids going to CCRI and salve, folks headed to events in Downtown newport, the newport shows all will become with an $8.00 dollar fee before you even get a ticket, idiots bagged the whole state
Mike August 11, 2012 at 07:38 PM
For those who say that "out-of-state" drivers should pay for a portion of the bridge: I notice that a significant amount of the traffic on I-195 between the Rhode Island state line and the interchange for 24 South to Newport has Rhode Island plates. Perhaps Massachusetts should consider setting up their own tolls so that "out-of-state" drivers pay for their share of the cost of maintaining the roads and bridges on that stretch of I-195, and the stretch of Route 24 that goes to the RI state line. What seems to get overlooked is that these roads and bridges are all part of the same regional road network, regardless of state lines.
Dr O August 11, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Well My view is I'm a service company, I have 3 to 4 calls over the bridge daily what am i to do except raise my prices, and watch work slip away.
MrsMooers August 16, 2012 at 05:48 PM
My husband and I are both Mass residents who work on Aquidneck island. Basically we both stand to lose $1.00 an hour (and up since we both have to sometimes travel) just to keep our current jobs. This does not just affect us but the business owners we frequent BECAUSE we work on the island. I would say more than 50% of our income (not including bills) stays on Aquidneck island which will not be the case once the toll is passed. We get our cars serviced here, eat here, shop here, go to an acupuncturist and other physicians here, we even visit the entertainment venues here. We will be forced to find other jobs and spend our money in Mass instead. We looked into relocating to the Island but that is just not an option with the high prices in the real estate market and taxes (or even rent). This is just one example. We represent a large group of people. I feel Aquidneck island stands to lose more than they will gain from this toll.
Brian Medeiros August 16, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Some seem determined to turn stopping tolls into a partisan political issue, when in fact this is (and has been since tolls were first brought up a decade ago) the one issue that has near-unanimous agreement from across the political spectrum. I cross that bridge at least 4-6 times a day, and even at the lower rate it will cost me $20-$30 week. Even if it wasn't a personal hardship, I'd oppose it as a self-destructive way to raise revenue. With a nearby MA casino on the horizon, and Newport Grand a big source of RI revenue, does it make ANY sense to insure that most people will travel for free to the MA casino rather than pay a toll to get to Newport? Does making a dollar in tolls & losing a dollar in gambling revenue at the same time make any sense? This should be the one issue all Newport County people stay unified on. To turn it into a divisive political issue during an election season is the one sure way to guarantee failure.
Jim L August 16, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Thank you for NOthing once again Brian, I'm not the one who said Mitigate now am i I'm not the Rep who stated in public that this petition was just a waste of time? not a political issue? how did we get here?
Brian Medeiros August 16, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Jim: Thanks for stepping up and proving my point. For the record, like many others, I was attending the anti-toll meetings back in 2002/3, and wrote a Town Council resolution opposed to Sakonnet Bridge tolls that was approved in 2008. Our Reps & Senators (of both parties) have been fighting this for years. For any political faction to come along now & try to claim this issue as their own is ludicrous.
Jim L August 16, 2012 at 06:38 PM
I'm not claiming anything Brain but i see once again you wrote this and you said that, But what did you do? Was it a secret fight? I saw no big Announcement, i saw no local rep throwing shoes, so what faction are you saying claimed this myself and 3other folks have put alot of time and money into this and for you to make a mockery of it just show how clue less you are
Brian Medeiros August 16, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Jim:Again, Jim you prove my point. You make bold statements with no facts or research to back them up. I was on the Council four years, and although you apparently lived in town, you know NOTHING about what went on. Sorry I didn't come to your house to give you the news, but the resolution was proposed, debated & passed in an open meeting. It was on TV, in the papers, and is in the record. You might want to have some actual info before you speak.
Dan D August 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I thought you were a Democrat?
Joe Sousa. August 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM
We all have been fight tolls since Gov. Carcieri first proposed it. The problem is the budget didn't fund DOT. and no changes were proposed for all those years. If our elected officials would have pushed to fund road and bridge maintenance instead of free bus rides and more welfare we wouldn't be in this position. The conservatives like me have been saying it for decades.Our Reps got no support from other because our Reps supported tolls on 95. It's not OK to vote for it down there either. I heard that from Reps who responded to my emails.
SC August 21, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I work on the island too and I'm going to have to pay both through taxes and through tolls. When you start paying my super high taxes (and ever reducing town services) I'll start worrying about how it's fair to you.
Kim B August 21, 2012 at 01:36 PM
SCabral - I live in Tiverton and both my husband and I work on the island, so believe me, I do not want to pay the tolls. The company I work for would also be greatly affected, as it would cost us $6 each way due to the size of the trucks and the multiple trucks that we do have, cross that bridge multiple times a day each week. However, since the Sakonnet River Bridge is a bridge for many workers on the island, that would not be fair to only toll the out of state workers They should be eligible for a discounted rate as well, if it does indeed get passed.
Jim L August 21, 2012 at 01:41 PM
MrsMooers I agree with you 100% i think anyone who works in Newport county from out of state and has Ri taxes taken out of their pay should sign a petition, and write govenor chaffee what i don't understand is the silence from the herald news on this, i have spoken to a reporter from them about this and i seem to have gotten no reaction,any one from MA. in this situation should be calling their congressman and senator, perhaps starting your own peition that states you live in mass and work in RI yesterday i was at the Middletown Industrail park and while there were many cars from ma. in there i was refused to leave a petition, this was due to company policy and thats ok, i understand and just about all of them told my to stand outside the parking lot and i would gather many signatures , if only i had the time, but please join us in the fight again this idea call or write you paper make sure your local coincilman hears of this, and don't just assume that they know about this, it's been flying under the radar for awhile now, maybe Ma, needs to put up tolls just past the Harbour malls, i mean fair is fair isn't it?
KLynn August 21, 2012 at 03:27 PM
If all else fails, we need to find a way for all that money to be given to the people in a trust of some kind where we can have the State submit their itemized "bills" to us to be paid, if we decide they are worthy of payment. I just don't trust how this money is going to be used!! So unfair all around and this is supposed to be a government "of the people, by the people and for the people! We also need to remember who is behind this at election time!
Kathy Irving March 13, 2013 at 01:40 PM
I think it is ridiculous for the State of RI to hold Aquidneck Island hostage for its mismanagement of transportation funds. We need our out of state employees as well as our locals to feel FREE to come and go to our island as necessary. Aquidneck Island already pays heavily for the "privliege" of being part of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Perhaps it is now time to stop being Providence's Plantation.

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