Editorial: Bridge tolls — Vigilance needed

Posted 3/14/19

Tiverton, Little Compton and towns all around would be wise to follow Portsmouth’s lead and keep their guard up and options open concerning the threat of Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.

While …

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Editorial: Bridge tolls — Vigilance needed

Posted

Tiverton, Little Compton and towns all around would be wise to follow Portsmouth’s lead and keep their guard up and options open concerning the threat of Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.

While they’re at it, they’d do well to keep a close eye on the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority from which come occasional rumblings of Mount Hope Bridge tolls.

Although a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge was implemented in August 2013, it went away in June 2014 in the face of local opposition and the gantry was removed in February 2016.

But once killed, tolls these days don’t necessarily stay dead for a few reasons.

For one thing, restoring tolls is now simple and quick — witness how fast those Sakonnet River toll gantries went up overnight six years ago. They need no toll booths, no toll takers; they just appear.

For another, the door is still open for a future toll due to a revised record of decision issued in April 2013 by the Federal Highway Administration that approved a levy on the bridge.

And, as long as the state continues to spend beyond its means (which is forever the case in Rhode Island), no revenue source is ever off the table. As though oblivious to the fact that the taxed-out state is already $300 million or so in the hole (the real number is never quite clear), the governor has floated all sorts of new feel-good programs for which funding is vague at best.

Skeptics should consider what just happened in Connecticut, a state whose budget woes resemble Rhode Island’s.

In desperate search for some way to pay bills, the governor has floated the idea of bringing tolls back to that state’s major highways, and not just for trucks. Residents have voiced shock and rage, but, once mentioned, tolls are a most powerful temptation.

Residents, who resisted tolls with such determination here twice before, need to keep in mind what brought them to the State House to protest by the bus-load.

These are, first and foremost, local bridges traveled mostly for errands, family visits, school trips, shopping, dinners-out … Tolling them would erect very real barriers between loved ones, friends, and businesses and their customers.

Bridge tolls were a terrible idea six years ago and they are every bit as bad today.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.