Turnpike Authority Votes to Raise Sakonnet River Bridge Tolls

Vote comes as lawmakers at the State House are still debating the toll issue.

Crossing the Sakonnet River Bridge will cost 40 cents more beginning May 16, or, tolls on the Claiborne Pell Bridge in Newport will increase from 83 cents to $1.04 for E-ZPass holders and from $4 to $5 for cash-paying drivers after the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority voted Wednesday for the increases.

The vote came one day after House and Senate leaders voted to delay any toll increase from April 1 to May 15, NBC10 reported.

In an interview, RIBTA Chairman David Darlington said the vote is based on the authority's need to cover maintenance costs for all of the bridges it maintains.

Darlington had warned lawmakers that efforts to block tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge would result in an increase in tolls on the Pell bridge because the money has to come from somewhere.

With the vote, the turnpike authority has set the stage for an increase no matter what the General Assembly decides to do, including a potential bill that would dramatically change the way road and bridge repairs are funded through the creation of a $1 billion infrastructure fund. That bill includes a provision that would eliminate tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge altogether and eliminate the turnpike authority, merging it into the state Department of Transportation.

The current 10 cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge was established by lawmakers last year as a placeholder to buy time until the toll issue could be sorted out in this legislative session.

Meanwhile, many residents on Aquidneck Island are increasingly worried about the effect tolls would have on business, tourism and commuters who live on the island but work on the mainland or in Massachusetts.

In a letter to lawmakers, Darlington warned that being unable to toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge would compel the authority to return it along with the Jamestown Verrazano bridge to the state.

This morning, along with the toll increase vote, the turnpike authority agreed to the decision by House and Senate leaders yesterday to delay a decision on tolls from April 1 to May 15.

Tim March 22, 2014 at 10:52 AM
This may be petty in the grand scheme of things, but they can't even get the fancy lights in the center of the new bridge to work, and they want to charge more to cross? The RITBA has to go... And to all who say "you bought a house on an island" most of us do not live here for the "prestige" of living on an island. I'm a working class stiff, just like working class stiffs from Warwick, Bristol, Providence, Cumberland or Hope Valley...


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