To the editor:
My view of the tolls for the Sakonnet River Bridge is as follows:
The proposed tolls are a patently unfair burden on the communities of the East Bay and Aquidneck Island in particular. The responsibility of paying for the infrastructure of the state is properly one that should be borne by all the people of the state. To single out this part of the state for tolls while the citizens in this area support the costs of maintaining roads and bridges and other costs of state government does not seem equitable.
The direct cost for me if the tolls are similar to the Newport Bridge will be $2,200 per year as I drive a large pickup that will not qualify for discounted tolls. The fact that my commute is only seven miles is why I have not purchased a smaller vehicle for the commute. The toll will require the purchase of a smaller vehicle.
The fact that my out-of-state customers will be required to pay $8 to visit my Garden Center in Portsmouth will mean the loss of all that business. While that is not the majority of our customer base it should be noted that it will cast a considerable impediment to cross-state commerce.
There was some great testimony given at the (Tiverton) meeting but one stood out to me. The young business woman from the Portsmouth Shop was particularly lucid when she suggested that funding for the DOT cannot be solved by the piecemeal imposition of tolls or fees to parts of the system. An overall solution for the underfunding of our highway system must be found.
It became apparent to me after the presentation by the director describing funding sources for DOT that we have to find a more systematic way to fund highway projects and maintenance. We may all have to pay a bit more in taxes to make it work.
It is encouraging to know that mechanisms are in place to retire the debt burden that so restricts the activities of DOT. Maybe we should work to speed the process of retiring the debt to get DOT on a sound financial footing.
Martin Van Hof
Mr. Van Hof is a partner in the Island Garden Shop, Bristol Ferry Road, Portsmouth.