JAMESTOWN — David A. Darlington, chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA), has announced he is stepping down from the board of directors. His four-year term expired on April 1.
Mr. Darlington has been the public face of RITBA in the agency’s controversial efforts to impose a toll on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, which opened in September 2012. He’s also been a vocal critic of the current 10-cent “placeholder” toll that took effect in August 2013 after the General Assembly delayed a full levy until a legislative study commission could look into alternate ways to fund the maintenance of all state bridges.
On Tuesday, May 6, The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on a bill to create a statewide infrastructure fund. The bill would also prohibit a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge and transfer the Mt. Hope Bridge back to the control of the state. The committee hearing starts at 3 p.m. in Room 211 at the State House in Providence.
Mr. Darlington said he’s stepping down immediately. According to the RITBA bylaws, the board elects the chairman and is expected to take up the issue at its next meeting.
Mr. Darlington, who suffered a heart attack last year, cited health reasons for his decision to step down.
“It has not been a secret that I have had recent heart-health issues. It’s time for me to take a break from the 20 years of public service given to the state of Rhode Island and give more attention to my health,” he stated in the press release sent out by RDW Group.
Mr. Darlington has served on the RITBA board under three governors. According to a press release, during his tenure he’s shepherded the agency into the electronic era by automating toll collection using the E-ZPass and open road tolling system; has modernized operations and systems; and oversaw the largest Newport Pell Bridge improvement project since it was built — the $100 million steel restoration and painting project — “while keeping tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge among the lowest” in the Northeast.
“The landmark changes to rehabilitate the physical structures and bring the authority into a stronger financial position are the things I’m most proud of during my tenure,” stated Mr. Darlington. “It has been an honor to serve on the board and work with so many people who cherish the bridges as much as I do. The Newport Pell and Mt. Hope bridges are often acknowledged as the best maintained transportation assets in the state.”
He praised his colleges on the Authority. “The staff here are dedicated, talented professionals to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for making my experience at the RITBA memorable,” he stated.
Mr. Darlington said that in the near future, he hoped to see a median barrier added to the Newport Pell Bridge as well as resolution and consensus about the future revenue sources of the RITBA.
Mr. Darlington was named to the board of directors in 2001 to complete the term of a former board member. Previously, he served as special assistant to Gov. Lincoln Almond. In 2002, he was appointed by Gov. Almond to his first four-year term and in 2005 the board elected him as the chairman.
RITBA was created in 1954 by the R.I. General Assembly as a body corporate and politic, with powers to construct, acquire, maintain and operate bridge projects as defined by law. The authority has no stockholders or equity holders. It is directed by a five member board of directors, all of whom are appointed by the governor.