Ian Donnis / RIPR

Pablo Rodriguez joins the Roundtable this week as we discuss ongoing mediation over Rhode Island's pension lawsuit; the start next week of a 10-cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge; Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin's decision to become a Republican; and the US Justice Department stepping away from mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes.

The head of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority said it’s going to take some time to figure out how to collect tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge from drivers who don’t have an E-ZPass.

A toll gate will collect tolls electronically, with an extra fee tacked on for drivers who lack an E-ZPass and need a bill sent in the mail. But since the toll is now only a dime, Turnpike and Bridge Authority chairman David Darlington said they’ll have to find a cost-effective way to send those bills.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority says it’s worried that a toll freeze on the Sakonnet River Bridge may violate promises the authority made in previous bond sales.

When the Turnpike and Bridge Authority put bonds up for sale, it made a promise to bond buyers that it would not take on assets that didn’t come with a revenue stream. That way, says Chairman David Darlington, the authority doesn’t get loaded down with bridges it can pay for. He says delaying tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge puts the Turnpike and Bridge Authority in conflict with those promises.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

Residents and merchants in the East Bay are sharply opposing tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Local lawmakers have joined them in asserting the tolls will hurt the economy in communities near the bridge.

The town of Portsmouth is continuing to challenge the imminent imposition of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The town is appealing a federal court decision issued last week which allowed the tolling to proceed. Portsmouth town solicitor said they’ve asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited ruling on their request for an injunction because the tolls are scheduled to start next month.

Courtesy RI DOT

The House Finance Committee is slated Tuesday to consider a bill to block a toll planned for the Sakonnet River Bridge. The legislation would use a different approach to pay for bridge maintenance.

Legislation co-sponsored by state Representative John Edwards uses increased vehicle inspection fees and other sources to pay for keeping up bridges. The bill would also expand the oversight of the state Turnpike and Bridge Authority to cover all bridges longer than 700 feet.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority said it’s not surprised that a federal judge refused to issue a restraining order to block tolling of the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Because tolling wasn’t part of the original construction plan approved by the Federal Highway Administration, the state had to go back and amend its environmental impact statement. The Town of Portsmouth filed a lawsuit, saying the amended impact statement is flawed. Chairman for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, David Darlington, said he’s confident the paperwork was properly filed.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is working out how much it will charge drivers to cross the new Sakonnet River Bridge. The authority will charge less for drivers with an EZPass.

The Sakonnet River Bridge

(PROVIDENCE, RI) Governor Lincoln Chafee’s keeping mum on whether he would veto legislation that keeps tolls off the Sakonnet River Bridge. State Rep. John Edwards of Tiverton says he plans to introduce a bill that keeps the Sakonnet Bridge from transferring over to the state’s Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Edwards calls the toll a tax and says the state should be able to pay for maintenance with general funds. Chafee says the state needs to pay for maintenance somehow and there are no easy decisions.