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.
11 Wendy Drive