Lawmakers lambast Mass. toll proposal

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A bill that would place tolls at major road border crossings into Massachusetts drew immediate and unhappy reaction from Westport's Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representative Paul Schmid.

"First the Sakonnet River Bridge, now this," Senator Rodrigues said. "Hardly what our region and our economy need."

He said the measure was proposed by some Metro-West area lawmakers who believe it inequitable that their constituents are the only ones to pay tolls — the state's only toll road is the Mass Pike

Although the toll amendment to the state transportation bond bill initially passed in committee by a 19-15 vote, it has since been sent off for study which will put it for for awhile and may eventually doom it.

Among the routes hit under the measure would be Route 24, meaning that people driving from  Rhode Island to Massachusetts and vice versa that way would be hit by tolls on both sides of the state line.

"It makes no sense," Sen. Rodrigues said. "We rely so much on interstate commerce here — every business does" including his own floor covering business, many of whose customers come from Rhode Island.

Rep. Paul Schmid called it a "screwball idea."

"Just go to Partner's or Lees or the Back Eddy and count the Rhode Island cars … This is a regional economy — we want their business, they want ours … People here work at Raytheon, Rhode Island people work at UMass Dartmouth. We should be trying to attract people here, not keep them away.

Rep. Schmid said any plan to toll the Sakonnet River is just as shortsighted.

"If they don't want us in Rhode Island we'll just have to tune up our business here."

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