Experts for Portsmouth: Federal law prohibits Sakonnet Bridge toll

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PORTSMOUTH/TIVERTON — Federal law prohibits the implementation of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, say two experts whose written testimony has been included in the Town of Portsmouth’s lawsuit to get the toll removed.

Portsmouth Town Solicitor Kevin Gavin, in a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence, included the opinion signed by Marcus J. Lemon and Valerie J. Southern.

Mr. Lemon was lead counsel for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) from 2008 to 2009. Ms. Southern was the deputy director of policy to former Gov. Edward D. DiPrete, overseeing statewide policy in transportation, land use and economic development from 1987 to 1990.

“It is our opinion, to a reasonable degrees of certainty in our field of expertise in transportation and FHWA matters, that the Sakonnet River Bridge does not qualify for tolling under 23 U.S.C. § 129 and, therefore, tolls are not permissible on the Sakonnet River Bridge pursuant to the “freedom from tolls” prohibition of 23 U.S.C. § 301,” Mr. Lemon and Ms. Southern wrote in their opinion, citing the specific federal law pertinent to the case.

The crux of their argument is that federal law does not allow tolls on any transportation facility once it has been opened to traffic. The Sakonnet Bridge tolls were implemented in August of this year, but the bridge was opened to traffic nearly a year earlier — in September 2012.

Michael Lewis, director of the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT), has argued that the deadline to implement a toll on the bridge is when the contract with the builder — in this case, Cardi Corp. — is substantially complete. RIDOT still has Cardi under contract.

RIDOT, the opinion states, felt the 10-cent “placeholder” toll was required because federal participation in tolling is prohibited after a project is substantially completed by virtue of federal law.

“However, RIDOT misinterprets when substantial completion occurs, claiming that (it) arrives upon final completion of the project by Cardi with certification by the agency. That is not accurate when looking at the plain language (of federal law),” the opinion states. “We conclude that the bridge was substantially completed upon the date when it was opened to vehicular traffic on Sept. 20, 2012.”

Federal law, the opinion continues, “never mentioned substantial completion at all, and never says that a toll may be imposed ‘at any time,’ much less after ‘substantial completion’ by opening it to vehicular traffic.”

In the Town of Portsmouth’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the defendants are listed as Mr. Lewis; Daniel J. Berman, division administrator of FHWA; Victor Mendez, administrator of the FHWA; Buddy Croft, executive director of the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA); as well as RITBA as a whole.

Comments

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Gwen LaFave

substantially complete is the key words, if a bridge isn't substantially complete cars and especially large truck should not be allowed over it. Just because it isn't completely finished and still under contract doesn't mean that is isn't substantially complete.

Friday, November 8, 2013 | Report this
GoogleUser2

I cross that bridge all the time and nobody likes to pay a toll but seriously, it's 10 cents. You can go back and forth for less than a quarter. I didn't know there were that many Jewish people crossing that bridge. And if you are that concerned about the toll go spend about 4 bucks on a can of clear coat paint and spray it over your plate. The cameras won't be able to pick up the numbers on it but it's only a dime.

Friday, November 8, 2013 | Report this
Yelleboski

Dont forget its costing them more money to manage the tolls then to maintance the bridge lmao

Thursday, November 14, 2013 | Report this
HealthyTrials

GOGGLEUSER2, are you uneducated, ignorant, or just plain brain-defective?? What are you talking about "Jewish people"??? No one in their right mind has any view like this toward them in this civilized society...!! Get a clue! What is wrong with you? Oh I know, you're jealous of their success, like so many other run-of-the-mill dufus-nit-wits. Thanks so much for making our world more positive and realistic! Thanks for being fair and just in your thinking! Next it will be the Poles, then the Portugese, who is next, brilliant nit wit????

Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Report this

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