The chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA), David A. Darlington, will recommend that the board of directors approve a toll schedule on the Sakonnet River Bridge that charges $0.75 for most R.I. E-ZPass customers.He will make his recommendations at the April 17 board meeting scheduled for 8:30 a.m. in the Jamestown Town Hall on Narragansett Avenue.
Mr. Darlington will also recommend two changes for passenger vehicle discounts. One will be to offer the discounted toll to any motorists using a RI E-ZPass transponder, not just Rhode Island residents. The second affords every holder of a RI E-ZPass an unlimited number of trips over both the Newport Pell and Sakonnet River Bridges in one calendar day after they pay for one round-trip per bridge in that period. Like the Newport Pell Bridge, those with RI E-ZPass transponders can take advantage of a 30-day unlimited crossing rate. At the Sakonnet River Bridge, the unlimited plan rate is proposed at $36.14 per transponder.
In response, he said, to feedback received from its customers, RITBA will offer two new discounts for trucks: 1)Two-axle trucks will be eligible for a $100 per month unlimited travel plan per bridge; and 2)Vehicles weighing more than 7,000 pounds in gross vehicle weight with only four tires and with a RI E-ZPass will pay the lowest rate.
The basic toll rates on the Newport Pell Bridge will not be affected by this vote, but the most frequent travelers should experience a drop in tolls due to the new policy of one round-trip payment per calendar day. Commercial vehicles will have another cost-effective option to manage toll costs with the introduction of the new truck discounts. In January 2012, the board voted to raise the toll on that bridge, but delayed that increase when the four-bridge system bills were filed. In June, 2012, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation authorizing the creation of the four-bridge system, and the added revenue from the new asset will delay further increases in the Newport Pell Bridge toll.
“At the public workshops, members of the public who chose to review the information and comment on the toll options told us they preferred this tolling structure,” said Mr. Darlington in a press release. “We also wanted to address the concerns about the impact on Massachusetts residents who commute frequently to Aquidneck Island, and the offer of the RI E-ZPass rate goes a long way to mitigate that concern.”
The toll is necessary, he said, because RITBA cannot accept the Sakonnet River Bridge without a stream of money to pauy for maintenance. The board has projected that the four bridges will need $350 million over 10 years in order to keep them in safe and excellent condition.
In the toll schedule to be voted upon, the so-called “video toll” rate will be $5.25 for only those passenger vehicles without any form of E-ZPass. No cash will be collected at the bridge at the time of the crossing because RITBA will use not use manned toll booths as a method to collect tolls. Cameras will be mounted on an over-road gantry, much like the structures used to hold directional signs over the highway, that will take photographs of vehicle registration plates, and RITBA will mail invoices to any owner not using E-ZPass. The additional cost of mailing and collection is included in this “video toll” rate.
Most trucks with an E-ZPass will be charged $1.88 per axle.