The Board of Directors of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce has voted unanimously to support Senate Bill 989, introduced by Senators DiPalma, Felag, Ottiano and Bates and House Bill 6210, introduced by Representatives Edwards, Canario, Gallison, Finn and Marshall as an alternative to bridge tolls.
“The Establishment of a Bridge Maintenance Fund Restricted Receipt Account is critical to addressing our state’s capital assets, Rhode Island bridges,” the Chamber said. “The bill establishes a framework to accomplish that objective, and in so doing, obviates the need for any toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge, no increase in toll on the Newport Pell Bridge, no toll on the Jamestown Verrazano and no reinstatement of toll on the Mount Hope Bridge.” These bills address not just toll expansion but the need for a sustainable funding mechanism for bridge maintenance for all of the bridges over 700 feet throughout the entire State of Rhode Island. “This is a State-wide problem that needs a state-wide solution”, said Representative Edwards.
The Chamber said that 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 (BRAC) process by increasing the commuter cost for the Defense industry including Raytheon, NUWC and Naval Station Newport employees who commute over tolled bridges.
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.