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East Bay Legislators to Fight Any Tolls on Mount Hope, Sakonnet River Bridges

For tolls to be established, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority would need the General Assembly to pass enabling legislation, and a trio of legislators are vehemently opposed to any such bill.

Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton, Portsmouth) and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) are introducing bills aimed at preventing the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority from on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges.

In a press release Friday, the legislators said they want to send a message to the Turnpike and Bridge Authority that any request it may make for tolls on those bridges is going to be met with stiff opposition in the General Assembly.

“We’ve said time and time again that the Turnpike and Bridge Authority isn’t going to hold the people of the East Bay and Aquidneck Island hostage. If they try to put in these tolls, we will fight them tooth and nail on behalf of our constituents,” Gallison said.

Gallison and Edwards have introduced bills banning tolls on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges, respectively, and Felag has introduced both bills in the Senate. All have introduced the bills in previous years, but say they are more concerned than ever about discussions the Turnpike and Bridge Authority has been having about creating new tolls.

In order for tolls to be established, the authority would need the General Assembly to pass enabling legislation, and the trio of legislators said they would vehemently oppose any such bill.

“As it is, those who live on or visit Aquidneck Island already have to deal with tolls of $4 each way on the Pell Bridge, and those were only allowed because the authority agreed not to charge tolls on the other bridges," Edwards said. "At least now, drivers have the option, even if it’s not always the most convenient one, of getting to or from this part of the state a different way. But if tolls are allowed on all the bridges, people in this area will be made to open their wallets every time they need to go to another part of the state, and that’s just completely unfair to residents. It will also hurt businesses, who will likely lose plenty of customers who would prefer to go somewhere that doesn’t require them to pay a toll.”

The legislators say reinstating the tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge, which connects Bristol and Portsmouth would be breaking a promise made to Rhode Islanders from over a decade ago. Tolls were eliminated from Mount Hope in 1998 when the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority said tolls on the nearby Pell Bridge, which cost drivers $2 per axle to cross, would provide plenty of money to maintain both.

Felag, who has been opposed to tolls for all of his 13 years as a state senator, said, “We all have to work harder these days to live within our means. The Turnpike and Bridge Authority should learn that lesson. East Bay residents and Aquidneck Islanders are already struggling, and taxing them every time they leave the area is just going to mean fewer people and businesses will be able to afford to stay here. More tolls are going to hurt the economy right now.”

Mark D January 21, 2012 at 11:33 AM
In one aspect you are right Ri pays the highest gas tax in the country 33 cents a gallon. However the money doesn't go into the general fund. Secondly RI has the country's lowest state funded transportation budget. It relies too heavily on the federal gov't almost every state in the country uses tolls to help pay for road work. I suggest that we all look at the funding sources and the expenses and see where the shortfall lies. Also the gas tax provides less and less money every year especially in a recession. Cars are much more efficient and people drive less, so both sources the federal dollars and the state dollars are shrinking. Is there mismanagement certainly but not to the extent that would make it possible for the state to take over the Mt Hope Bridge and maintain it the way it has been maintained for over 80 years. But thats alright just raise the rate on the Newport bridge after all they don't need the money.
Andrew Naylor February 16, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Andrew N Think SAFE. In the words of Clint Eastwood " Do you feel lucky punk" every time you cross a bridge maintained by the RIDOT and get to the other side? How much more of our tax's do we have to give to the RIDOT so they can continue to show there incompetence at Bridge maintenance At least when been held up on the Mount Hope bridge for maintenance I know my life is been looked after. When was the last time you where held up on the Sakonnet bridge for Routine maintenance rather than emergency band aid work? never so now we need a new bridge Ask the families of the people who died in Minnesota when the I75 Bridge collapsed there if they would rather have paid a toll and had there relatives alive today There was not even a weight restriction on that bridge when it failed ! How close are we in RI to a catastrophe like that, due to poorly funded and badly run maintenance departments? The Day the Pell bridge and Mount hope bridge fail safety inspections then conceder moving there control to some other authority But for now think SAFE think TOLL
Joe Sousa. February 16, 2012 at 05:23 PM
This Bill makes more sense. Consolidate and Fund the maintenance . Rep. Morrison Introduces Bill To Dissolve Turnpike and Bridge Authority The bill would place the new Turnpike and Bridge Division under the direction of an assistant director at DOT. The bill would essentially dissolve the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and move all of its projects to be handled by a division of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
Claire Arrico April 29, 2012 at 10:02 PM
I think any toll on this bridge would hurt the economy on this Island. Our prices are so high now for food gas clothing and anything else you buy here. We are already paying high enough prices to live here
East side April 30, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Toll the new bridge - that's my opinion. Keep the funds within the Bridge Authority so that this bridge keeps getting maintained just like the Newport Bridge. People are short sighted if they believe someone else is going to pay the tab. We don't want in the future what we have today due to lack of bridge maintenance. Look at the safety issue with the hummocks bridge down, look at all of the businesses that cannot pass over the Sakonnet bridge and need to travel around it - that's a lot of gas and maintenance expense. As far as the island businesses go - what are they doing today? what are the people on the island doing - as an islander I still shop on the island. Let's keep access to the island a positive and open invite. It takes money to make money.

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