Letter: Opposition to Sakonnet Bridge toll is not ‘hysteria’

Letter: Opposition to Sakonnet Bridge toll is not ‘hysteria’


To the editor:

toll gantry2Recently, Ms. Carolyn Booth of Newport wrote to Newport This Week and the ProJo about the toll issue. Our response:

Correct, the anti-toll groups do not speak for all of Newport County. Senate President Paiva-Weed’s and Rep. Martin’s positions are well known and understood. We respect them for doing the right thing for their constituents. It is no secret that the further south you go on Aquidneck Island, the opinions change.

Folks in Bristol, Warren, Fall River and the 195 corridor have deep concerns and they were taken into consideration by all involved. In fact, many of the anti-toll advocates have looked at the problem from a state and regional point of view, not just Newport County.

In her office in February 2013, Sen. Paiva-Weed communicated strongly and directly to anti-toll leaders her concern for the toll rates on the Pell. We took her guidance seriously and developed strategies, not only to find funding in place of the Sakonnet toll, but a few ideas on how to eliminate the toll from the Pell altogether. It is within the realm of possibility to fund an infrastructure plan that would result in removing the toll from the Pell. We will leave it up to the folks in Newport if they want that option.

It is not hysteria. There has been massive amounts of research and analysis done with respect to the whole process. We urge you to reach out to any of the other East Bay senators and representatives and they can certainly tell you how much thought, time and effort have gone into this issue.

One of the most important points from the research was that the state stands to lose as much tax revenue from lost business and tourism as the tolls would have brought in.

Also, part of the massive analysis has been to look closely at R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority borrowing and spending. Out of decorum, we choose not to make this a public issue at this time.

All elements of those bills are negotiable. Those negotiations are going on as we speak. The anti-toll leaders do not have those details.

If tolls were good for business, good for the economy and put money into peoples pockets, then we would be begging for them.

Ray Berberick


Mr. Berberick is chairman of the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee and a member of the Portsmouth Business Association and STOP (Sakonnet Tolls Opposition Platform).


  1. In Providence, Federal Judge Lageaux has delayed hearing the case because he indicated the case was “not ripe yet.” Some say he wants to wait to see what the General Assembly does.

    There Newport Daily news carried this story which says two experts believe the tolls are illegal. http://www.newportri.com/newportdailynews/news/page_one/two-experts-agree-with-town-on-lawsuit/article_0d867d54-1fda-5a71-bf33-2987f1866267.html

    It is my understanding that the three towns, Portsmouth, Bristol and Tiverton have a strong case.

    If the Judge Lageaux rules for us, which is not likely because a review of his decisions show he often rules in favor of the government, then the either the tolls come down The defendants could appeal this, too.

    If he rules against us, it is my understanding that we will appeal.

    A review of the decisions made by the federal appellate court in Boston indicate that they make fair and sensible decisions.

    We have a chance. But anything can happen in the courts.

    • Thanks Ray for the update. The East Bay gets the short straw so often it would be nice to see a victory.

      I complained about the traffic here about 3 years ago and without hesitation the RIDOT employee on the other end of the phone told me “We gave you a chance to upgrade your roads and you didn’t want to”. That was nearly 50 years ago when $180 million had been earmarked for I-895.

      That money ended up in the West Bay as the new Jamestown bridge which ironically would be maintained by the Sakonnet tolls also.