At a recent hearing of the House Finance Committee Rep. Daniel Reilly spoke out in opposition to a provision in the budget bill, that he said would impose an unfair tax on Aquidneck Island residents.
The freshman Republican was referring to bill, 2012 – H 7323, that if approved, would transfer management of the Sakonnet River Bridge and the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA).
“[The state] does not have sufficient financial resources to assure the future maintenance and operation of the Sakonnet River Bridge,” reads the bill.
If DOT transferred the bridges over the RITBA, the Sakonnet River Bridge would soon see a toll to cover additional expenses that would no longer be covered by the State.
RITBA is currently responsible for the maintenance of the Mount Hope Bridge as well the Newport Bridge. They do not receive state funding and are dependent on toll revenue to cover operating expenses. This past winter, RITBA voted to increase the Newport Bridge tolls to cover the increasing costs of maintenance of the two bridges.
Reilly said he has two major concerns about the transfer from RIDOT to RITBA.
“First, the Turnpike and Bridge Authority’s board has no statutory representation from any of the impacted communities,” he said. “Secondly, the East Bay Infrastructure Fund that would be established and funded by toll revenue would be dispersed across Newport and Bristol Counties.”
He said if passed, Middletown and Portsmouth residents would be required to subsidize road work as far away as Jamestown, Warren or Barrington.
“This will have an adverse impact on residents who use the bridge on a regular basis, harm local businesses both in terms of transporting goods and hurting the island’s tourism based economy,” Reilly told the committee.