To the editor:
I have followed the news articles on the hardships that the Sakonnet Bridge tolls would have upon businesses and people traveling to and from Aquidneck Island and found them to be both an interesting foray into normally unexplored regions of investigative reporting, and a lack of understanding of the total impact of the proposed toll.
While it is interesting to investigate the hardships that the toll would impose, it should also be recognized that tolls in general are a tax burden that, like all tax burdens, will be a hardship upon many people. All taxes should be investigated to determine if benefits justify the hardships; or more accurately if benefits and the spread of benefits to recipients justify hardships and the spread of hardships to those that must endure the hardships. In simple terms – does it pass the test of avoiding robbing Peter to pay Paul?
The proposed Sakonnet Bridge toll does not pass this test, because the Proposed Sakonnet Bridge toll would be robbing Sakonnet Bridge travelers in order to pay benefits to travelers over the Newport/Pell Bridge, the Mount Hope Bridge, and the Jamestown Bridge by using a significant portion of the Sakonnet Bridge toll (approximately $17mMillion of the $19 million per year or 90%) on the other three bridges. (This is per DOT Director Lewis on 12/03/12 at the Portsmouth toll hearing, and on 12/04/12 at the Tiverton toll hearing.)
If the toll is enacted on the Sakonnet Bridge to provide funding to the other three bridges for maintenance and improvements, then money from the Sakonnet Bridge and the Jamestown Bridge would be freed to be spent elsewhere in Rhode Island, thereby benefiting the remainder of Rhode Island at the expense of Newport County.
If the proposed Sakonnet Bridge toll is enacted, it will then set an added precedent for imposing tolls or other forms of taxation upon one segment of Rhode Island population in order to benefit other divergent segments of Rhode Island population; much like the way the Newport/Pell Bridge toll has been used to benefit the Mount Hope Bridge (using Newport/Pell Bridge toll money for Mount Hope Bridge maintenance) for the last several years, while also benefiting the remainder of the state by dispersing maintenance money across the remainder of the state, maintenance money that was not spent on the Mount Hope Bridge from the Rhode Island gas tax or other Rhode Island general funding for roads and bridges.
The inequity and the injustice of the Proposed Sakonnet Bridge toll have not yet been addressed by the news media and it is the inequity and injustice that cannot be justified by any manipulation by the governor, the Rhode Island Legislature, or the DOT.
Roger A. Bennis