RI Turnpike Authority: Toll Freeze Could Violate Promises Made in Bonds

Jun 28, 2013

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.

“So in the case of the Sakonnet, they transferred the Sakonnet, there’s going to be tolls, that’s the revenues, fine we’ll do it,” said Darlington. “Now they’ve taken the revenue away, now we’re in violation of our bond covenants because we now have an asset that doesn’t have a revenue stream.”

The Turnpike and Bridge Authority has already installed an electronic tolling gate on the Sakonnet Bridge. But a new state budget puts a freeze on collecting tolls until at least February.

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