The State of Rhode Island is bleeding to death from self inflicted wounds. The General Assembly has decided rather than correct the problem with a tourniquet it will attempt to slow the bleeding by opening a new wound.
The General Assembly has backed itself into a corner…again, and is trying to fight its way out. They look at 40,000 cars crossing the Sakonnet Bridge every day and see nothing but $$$$. Having gone to the voters for bond money to obtain the required RI 20% matching funds to qualify for the 80% Federal funds each year for decades the now $50,000,000 Department of Transportation debt eats a rather large hole in its $90,000,000 budget. So, the Governor and General Assembly are looking offshore to Aquidneck Island and have fashioned a revenue enhancement scheme on the Somali piracy model.
Shaking down local and out-of-state commuters for maintenance dollars for the Sakonnet and Jamestown Bridges, subsidizing the Newport and Mt. Hope bridges (so the Newport Bridge toll does not have to be increased) and paying for maintenance of all other roads and bridges in the East Bay is highway piracy. To follow this up with using East Bay gas tax dollars to bolster bridge and road maintenance funding in the West Bay is pure plunder.
The toll is rapacious, and a grave threat to the regional economy and jobs.
The General Assembly’s irresponsible and reckless spending habit has crippled RI infrastructure under a mountain of debt. Their solution is; Soak area commuters, locally dispersed families, and commercial traffic while starving the East Bay economy.
The Department of Transportation needs more than $200,000,000 every year for the next ten years to complete its backlog of road and bridge maintenance projects across the State. The reason for the funding shortfall is decades of incompetent budgeting of our tax dollars. Rather than cut spending on all manner of pet “indispensible” programs, our Governor and legislators have stepped “outside the box” and discovered an innovative funding scheme to correct the situation. Since the gasoline tax revenue collected across the State is insufficient for DOT to complete its mission, a new tax on Newport and Bristol County residents and businesses has been established in the guise of a toll.
Instead of funding road and bridge maintenance in Newport and Bristol counties with gasoline tax revenue collected for this purpose, these projects will now be funded by a Sakonnet Bridge toll. This plan allows all gasoline tax revenue, including gasoline tax collected in Newport and Bristol Counties to be dedicated to funding DOT maintenance projects in Providence, Kent and Washington Counties.
Legislators in the West Bay are elated since they will be enriched with all the East Bay gas tax dollars to pave and repair roads and bridges in their counties. Their support for the plan is not surprising and their constituents will be pleased. That is, until, the shortfall again becomes unwieldy. Only then, when the first RITBA toll booths sprout on highways and bridges in their neighborhoods, will West Bay residents understand the long range benefit of the new taxing authority.
Portsmouth Town Council, President