County Chamber backs DiPalma’s anti-toll bill

Senator Louis DiPalma testifies against tolls at an earlier Senate hearing. Senator Louis DiPalma testifies against tolls at an earlier Senate hearing.

Senator Louis DiPalma testifies against tolls at an earlier Senate hearing.

Senator Louis DiPalma testifies against tolls at an earlier Senate hearing.

The Board of Directors of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce has unanimously voted to support Senator Louis DiPalma’s Senate Bill 0242 that is meant to block Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.

“Senator DiPalma’s bill … is unique from all other legislation relating to bridge tolling,” said Laura Pedrick, chairwoman of the Chamber board.

“This bill not only prohibits tolling on the Sakonnet, Mt. Hope and Jamestown Verrazano bridges but it also freezes tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge,” she continued.

“This bill is the first to address the need for a sustainable funding mechanism for bridge maintenance and for Department of Transportation funding, making it the first real opportunity for a funding stream in lieu of tolls.

“Instituting tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge will negatively impact all Rhode Island residents and businesses by increasing the cost of living and of doing business in Newport County and the East Bay,” Ms. Pedrick said.

“Additional tolls would:

• Increase the cost of goods and services to Aquidneck Island and the East Bay

• Increase the cost of doing business to all Aquidneck Island businesses

• Increase the cost to commuters who travel the toll bridges

• Increase the cost of compensation/recruitment for employers seeking qualified candidates from Southeastern New England

• Decrease our competitive position in preparation for the anticipated 2015 Base Realignment and Closure process by increasing the  commuter cost for the Defense industry including  Raytheon, NUWC and Naval Station Newport employees who commute over tolled bridges.”

“This is an issue of equity and fairness,” said Senator Louis DiPalma, the bill’s main sponsor.

“Any additional tolls would place an unfair burden on Newport Pell and Sakonnet Bridge users.  We would be the only communities in the state required to pay for the maintenance of our own transportation infrastructure,” he continued. ”

“Expansion of tolling to the Sakonnet River Bridge sets a dangerous precedent for future state highway and transportation infrastructure projects.  Rest assured that if this toll passes there will be a toll coming soon to a neighborhood near you,” said Chamber Executive Director Jody Sullivan. “The Chamber and its members will work together to gather support for this bill”.

The Chamber Board also expressed concern that a comprehensive analysis of the real economic impact to the existing and future business environment, cost of living, and employment and workforce, has not been completed.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Paiva Weed, Felag, Ottiano and Bates.

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