Letter: Their bridge maintenance numbers don’t add up

To the editor:

A special legislative commission looking into funding for East Bay bridges has begun its study. As I indicated when I testified before the commission earlier this month, there are many serious questions and issues that I hope the commission will give serious consideration.

For instance, during my testimony before the commission, I questioned the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority’s latest numbers for bridge maintenance costs on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, since RITBA’s numbers keep changing like the weather. I pointed out that taxpayers and toll payers are paying more for the toll collection system than what RITBA is actually collecting for bridge maintenance. The state gave RITBA a bridge, taxpayers are footing the bill and the authority is sitting back and collecting the cash.

RITBA also indicated that August 23 was the substantial completion date for the bridge and that the 10 cent toll needed to be put into place at that time or there would be dire consequences. It is now the middle of October and the substantial completion date has not yet arrived. DOT Director Lewis has indicated it will now be sometime closer to March, 2014, before they reach the completion date.

There seem to be too many moving targets and very, very little in the way of actual, verifiable, definitive information. As a result, I urged the study commission to request a forensic audit of RITBA because, quite frankly, I do not trust what they are telling us.

I suggested that the commission seriously consider looking at cutting costs within the Department of Transportation. I think it would be more appropriate to cut costs first rather than just figuring out a way to raise revenue and further burden working people with the imposition of a toll.

I told the committee what I have been saying all along – this is not just an East Bay issue. We know that Providence, for instance, has the highest percentage of bridge failures in the state. I think it is time that we have one infrastructure entity – the DOT – and a means of funding maintenance and improvements that is supported by all the citizens of Rhode Island, not just those living on or traveling to and from Aquidneck Island.

Dennis Canario

Representative – District 71

Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton

 

One Comment;

  1. DownTown said:

    Dennis, I believe if you looked at what taxpayers in the East Bay pay into taxes versus what we get back in spending – The East Bay is subsidizing the rest of the State with the exception of the bridges. Take the bridge subsidy away and area residents are being ripped off en mass.

    If you are familiar with the studies done every couple of years where they show what a State gets back versus what they pay into Federal tax coffers. The same idea except by the community in RI. This is something taxpayers should be able to point to – it needs to be broken out.

    Central Falls was shown by the same State School Funding formula, that is stripping school funding every East Bay community except Barrington, to be capable of paying nearly $12 million a year into their school system. Yet they continue to pay nothing for the most part because, on their own over 20 years they only raised their property taxes by 3.2% while on average every other RI community raised their taxes by 133.6% over the same time period. The State School Funding Formula doesn’t look at tax revenue it looks at what tax revenue should be based on property values and poverty etc rather than what is being collected and or spent elsewhere. In other words it’s fair across the board BUT Central Falls continues to pay ZERO.

    $12 million a year would make a nice contribution to bridge maintenance.

    Quonset Point and URI are other big examples of State funding going into areas other than the East Bay. Where is our Quonset Point?

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