TIVERTON — With the Sakonnet Bridge as a backdrop, Brendan Doherty, Republican candidate for the 1st Congressional District, promised to fight any plan to slap a toll on that bridge.
Calling the toll plan unfair to the people of Aquidneck Island, Tiverton, Little Compton and Bristol, he called the tolls “an impediment to the economy of these towns and to the state as a whole.” The proposal, he added, is the result of “a failure of leadership.”
Tolls, he said, would also be an impediment to traffic. Referring to that morning’s traffic snarl that caused southbound Route 24 cars to back up from the bridge to the Fall River line (caused by an accident), he said, “Imagine if we had a toll plaza” here.
If elected, Mr. Doherty said he will work to “delay federal highway approval of a toll on this bridge … I will make this a top priority.”
He would work to change a “flawed federal system” by changing highway spending formulas to require that federal highway dollars can be used for road and bridge maintenance, not just construction.
Mr. Doherty said he would support a public-private bank to provide funds for infrastructure needs, money for which could come from leases of public lands for traditional and innovative energy projects.
While he said he could not promise to “singlehandedly” stop tolls, he did say that he is “listening to you and I understand your plight … I will make noise in Washington.”
Mr. Doherty said he is not against all tolls — “In some areas of the country tolls are prudent but not here on the Sakonnet River Bridge … This is a neighborhood — people depend on this bridge for their livelihoods.”
Asked about the fact that Republicans in Congress have worked to cut spending in many areas, including highways and transportation, Mr. Doherty repeated that he would work to change highway funding priorities to emphasize maintenance.
Cicilline, Gemma also oppose tolls
Mr. Doherty’s two Democratic rivals (before this week’s primary cuts that to one) also voiced opposition to Sakonnet River tolls.
David Cicilline said, “Congressman Cicilline expressed his opposition to this toll a month ago. The imposition of this toll is another example of why the federal government has to be a strong partner in repairing the infrastructure of our country and our state. For almost two years, Rhode Islanders have been waiting for House Republicans to move beyond partisanship and work with Democrats to rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges and schools. Instead, they dragged their feet on the surface transportation spending bill for months, refused to consider the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act that Congressman Cicilline has co-sponsored, and Republicans led by Paul Ryan pushed for a budget that would slash transportation funding by 25% over the next ten years.”
“Brendan Doherty has said that Paul Ryan ‘has some great ideas,’ but working men and women across our state deserve someone who will stand up for them, not for the Romney-Ryan agenda.”
Mr. Gemma said Friday that he is “strongly opposed to the proposed tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. From my experience as a businessman, I understand how detrimental these tolls will be for Aquidneck Island, Tiverton, Little Compton and Bristol.” Mr. Gemma said he has been an advocate for increasing federal support for local infrastructure projects, including the Sakonnet River Bridge, since he began campaigning in April.