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Was the General Assembly right to delay full implementation of tolls on the Sakonnet River bridge?

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As one of its final acts in the recently concluded session, the General Assembly delayed implementation of the tolls on the Sakonnet River bridge until some point in 2014, while establishing a commission to study alternative ways to fund bridge maintenance.

The delay followed months of opposition voiced by East Bay residents, even as the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority spent a significant amount of money to install the electronic toll readers on the bridge.

RITBA had made the argument that upkeep of the Jamestown, Mt. Hope and Newport bridges had fallen behind for lack of enough revenue, and expected that without the tolls, the Sakonnet River bridge would find itself in the same predicament.

Opponents felt that the toll, even if assessed only once per day for as many round trips across the bridge as a vehicle made, would put a damper on businesses on Aquidneck Island as well as its East Bay neighbors while hurting the pocketbooks of its residents.

Do you think that tolls are a good way to fund bridge maintenance?

sakonnet river bridge, toll, bridge maintenance, r.i. turnpike and bridge authority, mt. hope bridge, jamestown bridge, newport bridge, ritba

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richard@langseth.com

Turnpike Authority bond issue shows Turnpike Authority buying Sakonnet River Bridge from State of RI for hundreds of millions using bond funds and then paying off bond through tolls. State would then use the proceeds of the sale for upkeep of such roads as I-95 overpass in Providence. Why is nobody talking about this little ruse? The apparent strategist behind this money maker for the consultants is FirstSouthwest -- a group of former Fleet Bank executives with connections to former governors who are being sued in conjunction with 38 Studios. By the way RI DOT has not completely paid for the bridge and has about $16 million to go on it. This is why the bridge is not "completed." This deal stinks to high heavens.

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