The following is from a press release issued by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority:
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority board of directors will meet for its monthly board meeting on Wednesday Jan. 18, and is expected to vote on new toll rates for the Newport Pell Bridge, as well as a request of the Rhode Island General Assembly to allow RITBA to set .
In October, RITBA spent considerable time gathering opinions from businesses and members of the public about the feasibility of re-instituting and increasing toll rates on the Newport Pell Bridge.
“RITBA must set appropriate rates for the Newport Pell Bridge so that we can prepare for the long process of securing funding for the significant repair and maintenance work needed to ensure that the bridges are safe,” said David Darlington, chairman of the board. “Bridge safety is always our highest priority."
Darlington explained that the toll rate, if approved next week, won’t take effect until the start of the next fiscal year (July 1, 2012). However, RITBA must prepare for its financing presentations before bond agencies in March and must demonstrate a revenue stream to secure their approval.
“We are aware that other tolling scenarios are being explored, but we must work from our timeline,” said Darlington. “Should any of these scenarios materialize into concrete action plans, we would revisit the Newport Pell Bridge rates and Mount Hope Bridge re-tolling. However, at this point in time, we must act on the bridge needs based on our current revenue. That means borrowing and increasing the tolls to close the funding gap.”
The rates to be voted upon by the board will be $1 per crossing for residents with a RI E-ZPass and $5 per crossing for cash and undiscounted E-ZPass. The added revenue will provide the $250 million needed to fund RITBA’s capital projects in the 10-year Renewal and Replacement Plan.
“We have been very open about the revenue needs of the bridges and appreciated the feedback of those most impacted by toll increases,” said Darlington. “Regarding tolling the Mount Hope Bridge, a number of people told us that they believe there ought to be parity, and that imposing tolls on Newport Pell bridge users alone was not fair.
"While I agree in principle, it’s my intention to ask the board to defer discussion about re-tolling at this time and to submit legislation to the General Assembly that will allow RITBA to set appropriate tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge at a future date. It’s a long process to re-toll, and we believe that as custodians of the bridge, we should be able to set toll rates that meet the repair and maintenance needs of that bridge.”
The RITBA board meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 18, at 8:30 a.m. at the Jamestown Philomenian Library, 26 North Road.