RITBA ponders fate of toll gantry, unpaid tolls; one driver crossed 1,283 times without paying
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Now that tolling the Sakonnet River Bridge has come to a halt, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) will meet in early July to figure out what to do with the toll gantry, cameras and transponder scanning equipment that was erected one year ago .
The RITBA board will consider a variety of options, said spokeswoman Beth Bailey. Ideas include selling it to some other tolling agency, reusing some of the equipment for the Newport Pell Bridge, "or maybe the DOT (state Department of Transportation)."
The gantry was installed quickly in June of 2013 and RIPTA began charging "placeholder" 10 cent tolls just over a month later while the legislature debated whether or not to toll the bridge at all. Had they not charged those tolls promptly after completion of the bridge, RIPTA officials said, they risked losing the ability to ever charge a toll.
Ms. Bailey said that the toll gantry's total cost, including foundation and control building, was around $4 million.
Unpaid toll collection
Also on the agenda for the Wednesday, July 9, board meeting, is the matter of approximately $400,000 worth of unpaid 10 cent tolls racked up by motorists without transponders.
The debts range from a dime to that owed by one motorist who crossed 1,283 times without paying and now owes $128.30.
Although RITBA officials said last year that they were deciding how to collect those tolls, no decisions were ever made.
The challenge for the board remains, Ms. Bailey said, to determine the most cost-effective way of dealing with the issue. That includes determining a threshold at which the tolls collected outweigh the cost of collecting that money.
Spending 80 cents to collect a dime "obviously doesn't make much sense," former RITBA Director David Darlington said last year.
Ms. Bailey said that RITBA has received hardly any inquiries from people interested in turning in their transponders.
Anyone with an unused transponder may turn it in for a refund, she said, but transponders that have been used are not eligible for refund. When Sakonnet River Bridge tolls began last summer, many motorists took advantage of RITBA's limited time offer of a free transponder thus avoiding the normal $21 cost.
Ms. Bailey said the transponders continue to provide Rhode Island residents with reduced rate passage over the Newport Pell Bridge and can also be used at toll booths around the country.