PORTSMOUTH – The new 10 cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge began Monday despite protests and a damaging fire over the weekend.
Early Saturday morning, the toll equipment on the bridge was “intentionally damaged by fire,” according to a release from the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority. A backup system is in place and crews were able to repair the damage so tolls could begin as planned, the release said.
The incident will be “investigated and prosecuted,” according to the release.
“We support the right of civil protest,” the RITBA release said. “We have no tolerance for vandalism and arson, which puts lives in peril. This act of attempted sabotage is not a victimless form of protest.”
The following day, Aquidneck Island residents staged a peaceful protest at the bridge, NBC 10 reported. More than 200 protestors turned out.
“You are separating a portion of the state,” Bill Almeida of Portsmouth told NBC 10. “Tiverton and Little Compton, the only way they are going to be able to come to their state, they have to pay tolls.”
Last week, WPRI reported residents were planning to protest the toll by refusing to pay it with E-ZPass. The goal was to increase RITBA’s administrative costs, forcing the agency to return control of the bridge to the R.I. Department of Transportation.
RITBA, however, announced it would not mail out bills for unpaid tolls and would instead expect bridge users to pay on the agency’s website, according to WPRI.