Sakonnet River Bridge toll news roundup

Sakonnet River Bridge toll news roundup


N—TollHearing-4.17.13Senate bill seeking to create alternate bridge funding mechanism gaining momentum; Portsmouth solicitor claims toll illegal; House Finance hearing Thursday, April 25.

Yet another local business group has taken a stand against tolling on the Sakonnet River Bridge, days before the issue comes before the House Finance Committee.
Last week, the Board of Directors of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce unanimously voted to support Senator Louis DiPalma’s Senate Bill 0242.  Co-sponsored by Senators Paiva Weed, Felag, Ottiano and Bates, Senator DiPalma’s bill is unique from all other legislation relating to bridge tolling. prohibiting tolling not only on the Sakonnet, Mt. Hope and Jamestown Verrazano bridges, but also freezing tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge.  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.
“This is an issue of equity and fairness.  Any additional tolls would place an unfair burden on Newport Pell & Sakonnet Bridge users.  We would be the only communities in the State required to pay for the maintenance of our own transportation infrastructure” said Senator Louis DiPalma, the bill’s main sponsor.
Portsmouth town solicitor Kevin Gavin has weighed in with another potential roadblock to the Sakonnet Bridge toll, claiming in a letter last week to the Turnpike and Bridge Authority that a 2003 state environmental impact statement commissioned under former Governor Carcieri prohibited the use of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Mr. Gavin says a new environmental impact statement is be needed before tolls could legally be approved.
Meanwhile, there is a House Finance Committee hearing on two toll-related bills, one of which is H 5146, the companion bill to S0242, in Room 35 at the State Capitol, Thursday, April 25, at 1 pm. All are encouraged to attend.