To the editor:
On July 2, the General Assembly passed and Governor Chafee approved a “trailer bill” allowing an interim 10 cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Of course, the nominal amount is a place-holder for the larger amount of $5.25 (without a Rhode Island transponder) originally approved by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge (RITBA) Authority Board (a self-governing entity like the EDC) which it says it “needs” to support the “Four Bridge System” consisting of the Jamestown, Newport, Mount Hope and Sakonnet Bridges.
So the winners are –
- • Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) which will no longer be responsible for maintaining two major bridges, and;
- • RITBA – a quasi-government agency whose required revenue amounts keeps changing, and who continues to overstep its bounds by planning on well over $20 million annually in new Sakonnet Bridge revenue to support not just the Sakonnet Bridge, but the Jamestown, Newport and Mount Hope Bridges.
The $20M has to come from somewhere, so the losers are –
- • Low income employees traveling on and off Aquidneck Island for work;
- • Small business owners, dog walkers, beauty salons, Meals on Wheels, Visiting Nurses, landscapers and tradesman, and all who use the bridge several times a day;
- • Island residents traveling to Providence and Boston for medical treatments;
- • Day trippers who spend at local markets and shops;
- • Tourists visiting our beaches, restaurants and shops;
- • Military retirees traveling to the Navy Base for medical services;
- • Manufacturers who ship to and from the island;
- • Oil, construction, furniture businesses required to cross the bridge with deliveries;
- • Towns’ tax revenue from reductions associated with these businesses;
- • Schools’ already tight budgets for trips for sports and recreation;
- • The list goes on and on…
Ultimately, this toll will have a serious negative economic impact on residents, visitors, businesses, and Rhode Island’s General Fund. Numerous businesses and residents have testified that once the toll is instituted, low wage employees who cross the bridge daily will not be able to afford to come to work, day trippers will limit or eliminate their trips to our local businesses, businesses will reduce staff, and income to the communities adjoining the bridge will be reduced, consequently cutting tax revenues to the state. The negative effect will be devastating to many Rhode Islanders.
This decision is short-sighted for Rhode Island and destructive to the economic gains we have worked so hard to attain during these challenging economic times. The toll is not a done deal as so many have been lead to believe. Let’s remind our elected officials that they are elected by the people for the people, not to make their lives easier by passing these costs along to voters.
Chairman, Sakonnet Toll Opposition Platform (STOP)
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