Letter: In opposition to Sakonnet Bridge tolls

To the editor:

I continue to be strongly opposed to establishing tolls of any amount on the Sakonnet Bridge. Tolling is neither necessary nor reasonable. It is less than a courageous reach for a quick and easy supplemental revenue source by our governor and general assembly and a shirking of their responsibilities to ensure that the Department of Transportation is adequately funded to maintain our state’s infrastructure. Nor is there, in my opinion, any compelling reason why the existing tolls on the Pell Bridge need to be increased. In fact, if our elected representatives had the courage to do their jobs honorably, without always seemingly focused myopically on re-election, those tolls could be reduced, which would benefit everyone involved on both sides of the Bay.

I have expressed my belief previously that establishing additional tolls on another bridge access to Aquidneck Island would wreak financial havoc on the residents and  businesses of the East Bay, including the towns of Bristol County, and be counterproductive to the best financial needs and interests to the state at large.

Infrastructure maintenance is a statewide responsibility. Infrastructure expenses must be borne fairly and equitably by all taxpayers in all regions of the state and not be made the burden of any one particular segment of the population, which is what tolling the Sakonnet will do. The fact that the Department of Transportation’s share of the state budget is so grossly inadequate to do its job is a problem best remedied by our elected officials acting responsibly and courageously to reprioritize and reallocate existing tax revenues to ensure our roads and bridges are properly and safely maintained.

To date this has not happened, which is the primary reason why the old Sakonnet Bridge had to be prematurely replaced – another shameful chapter in Rhode Island’s politics.

According to the RITBA Four-Bridge System Financing Option study completed by Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.(page 4 of 24), the 10 year projected funding needs with Pell Bridge held at current toll rates and without any Sakonnet tolling, results in a funding revenue shortfall of 98.4 million dollars. That equates to an annual supplemental revenue needed of 9.4 million dollars. In a state budget of nearly 8 billion (that’s with a B) dollars, no member of the general assembly can credibly argue that 9.4 million dollars can’t be found and reallocated to RIDOT or its surrogate RITA. I would argue that even more than 9.4 million can be found and reallocated to RITBA so as to allow that agency to actually lower the tolls on the Pell. How beneficial would that be for the economies of Newport and the state?

Per the state’s website, the 2012 statewide expenditures are allocated as follows:

Human Services            3.2 billion         39.3%
General Government    1.5 billion        18.8%
Education                       2.2 billion         28.0%
Transportation                 .5 billion         6.3%
Public Safety                     .5 billion          6.3%
Natural Resources           .1 billion           1.3%
8.0 billion      100.0%

Please don’t tell me and your fellow citizens of the East Bay that 9.4 million dollars can’t be found and moved from say Human Servcies to Transportation to fund the costs of maintaining the four bridges connecting Jamestown and Aquidneck Islands to mainland Rhode Island. This is not the time and it is not the issue for our elected representatives to take the quick, easy and self- serving path to resolving a real and significant problem in our state – infrastructure maintenance. come on Governor Chafee, Senate President Paiva-Weed and Speaker Fox, it is time to exercise real leadership and serve the best interests of the entire state of Rhode Island.

Peter Hewett
11 Wendy Drive

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One Comment;

  1. Fred Baechtold said:

    I worry about how this scheme of tolling was devised.

    It is even more toublesome that no one in the news business asked reasonable questions so that taxpayers and bridge users might understand how devious this tolling plan is.

    Massachusetts built an entirely more complicated bridge structure for US 6 less than 20 miles from the Sakonnet River Bridge site. Yet this bridge does not carry a toll, nor to my knowdledge does Massachusetts have a plan to toll this bridge for its upkeep.

    The media seems focused on the decision to toll or not to toll. This misses the point entirely. What questions should be asked and answered?:

    Who from Rhode Island took responsibility to research how the US 6 bridge was funded? What did they find? How can Massachusetts build a new bridge and not seek tolls for its upkeep (and upkeep the many more bridges in Massachusetts)?

    I have suspicions that a Rhode Island leader would explain that Massachusetts funds bridge maintenance from it other tolls (lions share from I 90).

    This would suggest that Rhode Island create a RI turnpike on I 95 and toll that road.

    It seems as though Sakonnet Bridge toll payers will be funding the massive restructuring of I 95 through Providence.

    I will continue to try to avoid paying any taxes to a corrupt organization that fails to look beyond the gut reaction to tax.

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