To the editor:
This is an open letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Director Michael P. Lewis, asking him some questions and to clarify statements he made about tolls on March 26, 2012, that were reported in a Newport Daily News article on March 27, 2010, entitled “DOT director: Toll needed on new bridge.”
The article stated: “Tolls from the Pell Bridge and the new Sakonnet Bridge would be dedicated to repairs of all four Newport County spans with about $10 million to $15 million a year reserved for other East Bay road and bridge projects, Lewis said. That would ensure local infrastructure projects do not have to compete for finite state resources, he said.”
Question #1: Does the above statement indicate that the tolls from the Newport Bridge and the proposed Sakonnet Bridge toll would support the maintenance and repair of the Newport Bridge, the Sakonnet Bridge, the Jamestown Bridge, and the Mount Hope Bridge, plus provide an additional $10 million to $15 million (from tolls) that would be reserved for maintenance and repair of all East Bay (Newport County and Bristol County) bridges and roads?
Question # 2: Does Mr. Lewis’ statement — ‘That would ensure local infrastructure projects do not have to compete for finite state resources” — indicate that the reason that East Bay projects would not have to compete for resources is because all the East Bay bridge and road funding would be from the tolls, and none of the funding would come from the RI DOT via the RI gas tax, or the RI DOT funding, or the RI funding received from the Federal Government for RI road and bridge projects?
Question #3: Does the above statement indicate that it is the intent of the DOT to transfer all DOT bridge and road funding (other than the tolls from the Newport and Sakonnet Bridges) from the East Bay to the remainder of the State, if and when the Sakonnet Bridge starts collecting tolls?
Question #4: Does the above statement indicate that after the $10 million to $15 million a year reserved for other East Bay road and bridge projects is allocated, any money left from the Newport County tolls could be used to supplement the money for bridges and roads across the remainder of the State?
Question #5: Do you believe that it is fair, moral, and legal to transfer bridge and road funding from the East Bay to the remainder of the state, when the money is derived from the RI gas tax, the RI income and sales tax, other RI taxes and fees, and from the Federal give-back of federal taxes to RI for bridges and roads?
Wouldn’t that be the same as using the Sakonnet and Newport Bridge toll money to supplement the entire RI DOT budget for the entire State of RI, at the expense of the East Bay?
Roger A. Bennis