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 Rhode Island General Assembly recently announced a new piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Richard Morrison.

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.

The following is the official release from the Rhode Island General Assembly:

If shrinking government and making it more efficient can save taxpayer money, Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) has a suggestion about where to start.

He has introduced legislation that will dissolve the quasi-public Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, moving all its duties and functions to the RI Department of Transportation in a new Turnpike and Bridge Division.

“Maybe back in 1954, when the Turnpike and Bridge Authority was created by the General Assembly, there was good reason for a separate entity to maintain and operate bridge projects in the state,” said Representative Morrison. “I am not aware of any compelling reason for the authority to continue to exist now, when the authority is responsible for only two bridges and when it makes much more sense to have bridges, like all other roads in the state, under the control and operation of the DOT.”

“The Turnpike and Bridge Authority is just, in my opinion, another layer of government that doesn’t need to exist, and especially since, as a quasi-public agency, it is not directly answerable to the citizens of the state,” he said.

Representative Morrison said he is one of those legislators who has actively opposed plans by the Authority to institute tolls on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges. But he said his legislation is not solely a response to those proposals by the Authority.

He did suggest, however, that by eliminating the Authority and placing its functions within the DOT, the resulting efficiencies “might eliminate the need to place tolls on the bridges, or raise the toll prices.”

“I am primarily concerned about too many quasi-public agencies operating in Rhode Island, with too little oversight,” he said. “There are good arguments for the existence of some, such as the Economic Development Corporations, but I believe the Department of Transportation has the experience and the expertise to do the same work that is being done now by the Bridge Authority.”

The bill would place the new Turnpike and Bridge Division under the direction of an assistant director at DOT.

The Morrison bill would also transfer to the Department of Transportation all powers, control and jurisdiction of and title to the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The bill, 2012-H 7457, has been referred to the House Committee on Finance. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) and Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren).

“This is not about tolls.  It is about who is best suited to operate the bridges in the state and how can we, considering our state’s financial condition, do that the most effectively and efficiently,” said Representative Morrison. “In the case of state government, multiple layers of bureaucracy and authority are not the best way to do things.”

Will Museler February 17, 2012 at 11:34 AM
I would like to see a condition of this being that all monies collected as road tax or bridge tolls be assigned directly to RIDOT and not into the General Fund.
Mark D February 17, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I can see it now the tolls collected will become part or the DOT total funding for all transportation projects not just for the two bridges it now supports. Within 10 years we will be driving over to unpainted rust buckets. Within 20 years they will be like nearly every other bridge in RI structurally deficient or worse. Lord knows another assistant director is just what this state needs Morrison must have an unqualified nephew somewhere ready for the job.
Mark D February 17, 2012 at 01:36 PM
If you are interested here is some photos of how good RIDOT is at maintaining our roads and bridges. These are graphic pictures of severely decaying bridges we drive over daily which the DOT doesn't have the money to repair or replace. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ridotnews/6812555475/in/set-72157629159240493/lightbox/
Doug Smith February 17, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Wait... isn't RIDOT the outfit that failed to maintain the Sakonnett River Bridge until a new one was needed? Arguably, the Newport and Mt. Hope bridges - RIBTA controlled - are the best maintained bridges in the state. Maybe we are consolidating in the wrong direction? Why not put RIBTA in charge of all major bridges in RI, with the tolls from these (and possibly a RT 95 toll) to be used only for bridge maintenance and repair. A percentage of the RI gasoline tax would also help. Regardless of organization, however, I agree with Mark and Will - toll and gas tax revenues must be used for highway and bridge repairs and not become part of the general fund.
Diane Myers February 17, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I agree with Doug and he stated my exact point! I live near the Mt Hope and Sakonnett Bridges and the Mt Hope bridges is doing great! We are now replacing a bridge that we didn't maintain. I think RIBTA has a much better record and I would rather give them the money than the RIDOT. They have failed at most bridges including a smaller one by me the "escape bridge" that goes between the Hummocks and Island Park. We need to learn to take care of what we have.
Mark D February 17, 2012 at 02:31 PM
It should also be noted transferring RiTBA to dot control will not solve the tolling issue since the dot wants tolls also. They a have plainly stated that there is not enough money to maintain the the thousands of miles of roads and 600 bridges under its control. Half of all the money collected from the gas tax goes to debt service, for all the transportation bonds we have issued over the years. However in order to get our portion of the federal highway money we have put up 20%, hence the bond issues every two years. No matter how we look at this we are going to need more revenue to maintain these structures, and it is not an easy solution . The gas tax has gone up 4 cents since 1994 however revenue has gone down. Cars are much more efficient today. Plus we live to close to other states it is easy to jump across and get our gas in Ma. That only helps Ma, we could always institute a mileage tax but then that penalizes people who travel for work and puts the full burden on RI taxpayers. See no easy solutions. One of the last things I want to do is pay a toll to cross the bridge, who volunteraly wants to pay a fee, however the last thing I want to do is be the person that is driving across when the bridge fails because it wasn't maintained properly.
East side February 17, 2012 at 04:01 PM
There is also talk of the reverse happening. Since the DOT is so bad at maintaining roads, etc there is talk of taking parts of what falls under the DOT and having that moved under the leadership of the Bridge Authority. This would be a smart move.
Mark D February 17, 2012 at 08:01 PM
More bad news U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn just announce that "The Federal Highway Administration has effectively killed Rhode Island's plan to place tolls on Interstate 95 in Hopkinton. FHWA officials on Friday chose North Carolina as the last of three states eligible to place tolls on interstates to raise money for highway construction and maintenance projects." So that means now there is even less money to repair the Providence viaduct, so that money is going to have to come out of the federal money that we get, and that money doesn't go far enough to maintain what is falling apart. I think we are going to see that the the majority of the general assembly are not only not going to dissolve the RITBA but they are going to put a toll on the Sakonnet bridge and transfer it and the Jamestown bridge to the RITBA.


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