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.