The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today announced that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved the addition of all-electronic toll collection for the new Sakonnet Bridge.
In that ruling, the FHWA “concurs with RIDOT’s Final Environmental Impact Statement that the imposition of tolls on the bridge does not create any new significant environmental impacts,” the state said.
There is no mention of economic impact in the announcement.
Still to be determined are state bills (hearing Thursday) filed that aim to block the tolling plan, and a lawsuit being filed by the town of Portsmouth.
In its decision, the FHWA recommended the following measures:
• Monitor traffic diversion once tolls are implemented for a period of five years and provide an annual report on traffic volumes, estimated diversion rates and effects on low-income and minority communities;• Develop a process to mitigate impacts of the toll to the Little Compton School Department which buses students over the bridge to Portsmouth High School; and
• Require a fare structure that addresses the accumulated cost of repeated, daily trips over the bridge.
RIDOT and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) anticipate toll implementation this summer. RITBA recently approved a toll schedule of $.75 for vehicles with transponders issued by RITBA, including out-of-state residents. It further approved an unlimited number of trips per calendar day after motorists pay for one round-trip crossing.