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Senate Committee Votes to Remove Sakonnet Tolls, Create Infrastructure Fund

The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote and a companion bill in the House is expected to get out of committee, too, which should please commuters wary of the looming toll hike on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Photo: Rhode Island General Assembly via Twitter
Photo: Rhode Island General Assembly via Twitter
The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to remove tolls from the Sakonnet River Bridge and create a transportation infrastructure fund in a bill that, if passed, would dramatically change how the state funds road and bridge repairs and prompt a collective sigh of relief for Aquidneck Island and East Bay commuters.

The act (2014-S 2335) would establish the Rhode Island Transportation Infrastructure Fund as a restricted receipt account within the Rhode Island Intermodal Surface Transportation Fund. Additionally, ownership of the Sakonnet River and Mount Hope bridges would be transferred to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) and the ability to toll those bridges would be revoked.

“We listened carefully to the Aquidneck Island residents and business owners who have exercised their democratic rights in speaking up for what is fair regarding bridge tolls in the East Bay, and now we’ve acted,” said Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), primary sponsor of the bill. “I think this demonstrates the strong commitment of the General Assembly to the people it represents. The legislation provides a solid plan moving forward, and I hope my colleagues on the Finance Committee will support it.”

The current version of the bill has been modified from an earlier version submitted at the start of the legislative session. 

In the old version, ownership of the of the Sakonnet River Bridge and the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge would have been transferred to the state Department of Transportation. The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority would kept ownership of the Claiborne Pell and Mount Hope Bridges.

The current version would give the RITBA ownership of the Pell and Jamestown bridges under the assumption that they're less expensive to maintain, and ensuring tolls on the Pell bridge would not go up.

The new version also eliminates a provision that would have diverted sales tax revenue collected from online purchases into the transportation fund if Congress passed the Marketplace Fairness Act. But since that hasn't happened, it's no longer part of the bill.

The bill will now head to the full Senate for a vote and a companion bill is expected to clear the House as well.

John Flanders May 07, 2014 at 10:07 AM
After spending hours on that bridge holding signs to Refuse To Use your EZ Pass along with John Vit, Mike Buckley, Ron Marsh and other citizens willing to take a stand against the tolls publicly, I would like to personally thank Senator Lou DiPalma ( Sponsor: D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), Representatives Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth), Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) and Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown). and Sen. Christopher S. Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) for hearing the voice of the people. I also would like to thank Ray Berebeck chairman of the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee and a member of the Portsmouth Business Association and STOP (Sakonnet Tolls Opposition Platform), John Vitkevich for his never ending fight for whatever is fair, just and right, and the many not mentioned here, but who participated by exercising their right to take a stand and fight for what is right. We people were heard loud and clear. Now if we only can find out who emailed the Bridge Authority and then went and lifted a 100 pound sewer cover, dropped an accelerant in the electronics, and then set fire (determined to be a professional job) to it. Maybe someone ought to ask a former Chairman of RITBA some hard questions.
Iron Man May 07, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Mr. Flanders, you forgot to thank Jay Edwards.
John Flanders May 07, 2014 at 01:46 PM
Yes I did, sort of. I actually sent him a personal thanks, but neglected to add his name here. Jay please give me a get out of jail for free card on this one. Again thank you so much to you and all involved that made this happen. :)
ralph May 07, 2014 at 03:48 PM
I'll believe it when I see it. Until then? FUBAR!!!!!
FYI May 09, 2014 at 04:10 PM
And many said this couldn't be done! I'm a bit upset that my spouse bought one of these transponders last yr. I would like to get our $$ back and close that account. Even though my spouse had their own transponder, my account kept paying for the trips on their car. Also on my statements it did not always show the plate # & it randomly used my transponder # to pay for trips over the bridge. Who's to say that the Bridge Authority didn't use my transponder on someone else's car? Also everyone should thank God because I was praying furiously to have this thing taken away. I just hope they don't do it on a weekend (Sunday) like they did when they put that thing up. People should know that time & half was paid to those who worked on it. Our tax $$ used inappropriately once again. There was no need for them to put it up on a Sunday!

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