DOT plans hearings on Sakonnet River Bridge tolls

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is holding a pair of meetings next week seeking input on tolls planned for the Sakonnet River Bridge. Federal funding helped pay for the new bridge and at the time of construction tolls were not an option. But now that tolls are likely, the state needs to check back with the public as part of a re-evaluation process. RIDOT will cover where transportation funding comes from, and how tolls fit into the picture.

The Sakonnet is one of the most heavily traveled bridges, and tolling it will help pay for its maintenance, along with the upkeep of the Pell, Jamestown and Mt. Hope bridges. Residents in the area are upset, saying along with the Pell Bridge tolls, they are bearing the brunt of the costs.

RIDOT director Michael Lewis says he understands, but the money has to come from somewhere. "You can't get away from the fact that if you're putting a toll where one doesn't currently exist, people are going to be impacted. You're raising a revenue that doesn't currently exists so people are going to be paying something they don't currently pay and that has an impact."

In addition, Lewis says he understands that tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge will alter traffic patterns around the area. "Where will that traffic go, how much will it go, what would that diversion do to other routes. And that's something we're currently studying and that's one of the things we want to present, preliminary findings, to the public and to hear from the community on what those issues might be for them."

The meetings are scheduled at 7 o'clock next Monday and Tuesday night at the Portsmouth and Tiverton high schools.

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