RITBA ponders fate of toll gantry, unpaid tolls; one driver crossed 1,283 times without paying

By Tuesday, crews had stripped the gantry of its cameras and scanners. By Tuesday, crews had stripped the gantry of its cameras and scanners.

 

By Tuesday, crews had stripped the gantry of its cameras and scanners.

By Tuesday, crews had stripped the gantry of its cameras and scanners. (Jim McGaw)

For Sale: One used toll gantry system, lightly used, less than one year old. Cost $4 million new — make an offer …

Now that tolling the Sakonnet River Bridge has come to a halt, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) will meet in early July to figure out what to do with the toll gantry, cameras and transponder scanning equipment that was erected one year ago .

The RITBA board will consider a variety of options, said spokeswoman Beth Bailey. Ideas include selling it to some other tolling agency, reusing some of the equipment for the Newport Pell Bridge, “or maybe the DOT (state Department of Transportation).”

The gantry was installed quickly in June of 2013 and RIPTA began charging “placeholder” 10 cent tolls just over a month later while the legislature debated whether or not to toll the bridge at all. Had they not charged those tolls promptly after completion of the bridge, RIPTA officials said, they risked losing the ability to ever charge a toll.

Ms. Bailey said that the toll gantry’s total cost, including foundation and control building, was around $4 million.

 

Unpaid toll collection

Also on the agenda for the Wednesday, July 9, board meeting, is the matter of approximately $400,000 worth of unpaid 10 cent tolls racked up by motorists without transponders.

The debts range from a dime to that owed by one motorist who crossed 1,283 times without paying and now owes $128.30.

Although RITBA officials said last year that they were deciding how to collect those tolls, no decisions were ever made.

The challenge for the board remains, Ms. Bailey said, to determine the most cost-effective way of dealing with the issue. That includes determining a threshold at which the tolls collected outweigh the cost of collecting that money.

Spending 80 cents to collect a dime “obviously doesn’t make much sense,” former RITBA Director David Darlington said last year.

 

Transponders

Ms. Bailey said that RITBA has received hardly any inquiries from people interested in turning in their transponders.

Anyone with an unused transponder may turn it in for a refund, she said, but transponders that have been used are not eligible for refund. When Sakonnet River Bridge tolls began last summer, many motorists took advantage of RITBA’s limited time offer of a free transponder thus avoiding the normal $21 cost.

Ms. Bailey said the transponders continue to provide Rhode Island residents with reduced rate passage over the Newport Pell Bridge and can also be used at toll booths around the country.

 

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3 Comments

  1. GoodbytoRI said:

    I cant believe this is an issue, the tolls went up after the taxpayers said no to the idea, how much of the taxpayers money was spent putting up the toll equipment, and a year later they do away with the tolls. The toll issue was never documented just as what had to be done to pay tolls, and it was on the honor system to pay. The state should cut its losses and wipe the slate clean and not worry about the un-collected tolls, as it will cost more taxpayer money to try to collect them. Lesson learned, think before inserting foot in mouth.

  2. peter hewett said:

    Firstly, It appears that the gantry and accessories were erected prematurely. I place the blame for that 4 million costly screw up on the general assembly rather than RITBA. RITBA did what it had to do to be prepared to do its job.
    Now that the tolling issue has been decided and the gantry is no longer needed, it seems to me that if the scanners and cameras are compatible with what is being used on the Newport tolling system, they should be held as replacements for existing equipment. The gantry itself could be left standing as a reminder and monument of governmental stupidity.

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