Despite and East Bay , the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority announced Friday they intend to .
The decision followed the General Assembly's approval of a plan in the governor's budget to . The budget was signed into law Friday.
So where does this ownership transfer go from here? What will be the cost for the new toll?
Bridge maintenance costs to determine toll price
David Darlington, chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, said three key studies will need to be performed before the toll price can be determined: a Toll and Revenue Study (traffic study), Environmental Impact Study and Cost of Maintenance Study.
"It's too early to tell...Once we have all that data, we will know how much it will be to support the (bridge maintenance) costs," Darlington said.
The Toll and Revenue Study will research how many vehicles are expected to travel over the new bridge daily, how many travelers will choose a different bridge and how much revenue can be expected. Darlington said the study will likely be undertaken by the engineering firm Jacobs.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will conduct the Environmental Impact Study, according to Darlington and the DOT's Web site.
The final study, conducted by the Turnpike and Bridge Authority, will explore the maintenance costs for all four bridges, Darlington said. The costs of maintenance for all four bridges will factor into the final toll price.
"What is being misunderstood is this creates a four-bridge system," Darlington said. "The action here is to maintain four bridges with a two-bridge revenue system."
Tolls collected on the Newport Pell and the new Sakonnet River Bridge will fund maintenance on not only these bridges, but also the toll-free Mount Hope and Jamestown Bridges, Darlington said. The Turnpike and Bridge Authority does not receive state or federal money.
Open road toll construction to cost $2 million
Another factor that will be considered will be the cost to construct open road tolling on the Sakonnet River Bridge — as much as $2 million, Darlington said. The cost for the arbor, or arch over the bridge, costs about $400,000 alone. Costs are added for the transmitters, cameras and other electronics in the arbor.
"It's not an inexpensive process," he said.
The time to construct open road tolling could only last four to six weeks.
The toll collection system on the Sakonnet River Bridge is expected to be similar to the new open road tolling system on the Newport Pell Bridge.
Open road tolling is a system where there are no traditional toll booths, according to the DOT Web site.
Drivers using an E-ZPass transponder drive under an overhead structure at normal highway speeds and the toll is recorded. Such a system is now in place at the Hampton Tolls on I-95 in southern New Hampshire.