To the editor:
Imagine Newport — without a toll on the Pell Bridge …
During the recent Senate Finance Committee hearings about the proposed toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge, Senator Paiva-Weed asked the speakers for ideas on how to pay for bridge maintenance.
Back in January, anti-toll advocates met with her and one idea that surfaced was to look at a solution without any toll on the Pell Bridge. The comment at the time was, “… think of what that would do for Newport and the local economy!”
It sounds far-fetched, but it is within the realm of possibilities.
Based on figures provided by RIDOT and RITBA, the four bridges to Aquidneck Island would require funding of about $38 million a year each year for the next ten years for bridge maintenance, debt service and setting aside funds for future capital improvements.
The Rhode Island State Budget is roughly $8 billion dollars. One half of one percent of this figure is $40 million dollars. Is there a way to find $38 million dollars a year within an $8 billion dollar annual state budget? There may be.
One way is to consider incorporating private sector business best practices into the state spending and money management practices like the ISO standards. The state has started this with a new OMB-like program.
The state could examine the way the U.S. Army responded to sizable budget cuts in the early 1990’s as a result of the “peace dividend” after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The U.S. Army implemented two programs – the Army Community of Excellence (ACOE) program and Total Quality Management (TQM) to reduce costs and operate with reduced budgets. They had success and responded to budget cuts greater than five percent.
Another possibility is to incorporate practices similar to the Inspector General system in the U.S. Army. They are charged with looking at and fixing systemic problems, especially unintentional systemic spending problems as well as issues involving fraud, waste and abuse.
A fourth possibility is to have a dialog with UPS – “the Logistics People.” UPS developed internal programs to become more efficient and more profitable. This program was so successful, they added it as an adjunct business and offered their methodologies to other businesses that want to save time and money. Why not give them a try? At least have a discussion with them.
It certainly seems possible that implementation of any of these ideas could save the State at least one half of one percent of the State Budget. Once identified, dedicate those funds to RIDOT/RITBA to maintain the four bridges, take care of debt service, set aside funds for future capital improvements and do it without a toll on the Sakonnet and the Pell Bridge!