Sakonnet River Bridge

Republican candidate for governor Ken Block joins Bonus Q+A this week to discuss the economy, Sakonnet tolls, his view of budget savings, and a host of other issues.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is ramping up efforts to collect the 10-cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Chairman David Darlington said there are 750,000 records of drivers who have crossed the bridge without being charged. Now the authority is ready to collect.

If you have an E-ZPass, it will be charged. If you don’t own an E-ZPass and have crossed the Sakonnet Bridge fewer than 25 times, you will not receive a bill. But after you make that 25th trip, the authority will send out a bill of at least $2.50.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

Starting this Monday morning, it will cost you a dime to cross the Sakonnet River Bridge.  The toll went into effect at midnight over the objections of protesters.

About 100 people hung over the sides of the Sakonnet River Bridge Sunday evening waving American flags and signs saying “No Tolls” and “Stop the Theft.” Motorists honked in agreement.

A 10-cent toll will go into effect next Monday on the Sakonnet River Bridge.  The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has not yet established a new policy for collecting the tolls.

The General Assembly set the new 10-cent toll in the closing days of the legislative session earlier this summer. Turnpike and Bridge Authority Chairman David Darlington said the authority needs to gather more information before making a new policy.

Courtesy RI DOT

The state is slated to begin charging a new 10-cent toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge next Monday.  Yet it’s not exactly clear how the state will collect that money.

The General Assembly added the 10-cent toll, basically as a placeholder, at the end of the legislative session. The legislature took that action because the absence of a toll on the new span could prevent the state from adding one at a later date. State Rep John Edwards of Tiverton says the toll remains unpopular in the East Bay.

New Bikeway on Aquidneck Island in the Works

Jul 16, 2013

Progress continues for an 18-mile bike path on Aquidneck Island, which will extend from the new Sakonnet River Bridge in Portsmouth to the Newport beaches. 

Tina Dolen, the Executive Director of the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, says that ideas for a bikeway began in 2004 when the Commission produced the West Side Master Plan.  She adds that this project will cost them less time and money than another bike project, the Shoreline Bikeway, also in the works. 

Dolen states that this development will be beneficial for everybody.

On a 40-25 vote, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impose a 10-cent toll on the new Sakonnet River Bridge.  The move comes after the House last week delayed plans for tolls on the bridge.

Lawmakers said they reversed course because a federal requirement bans the addition of new tolls once a bridge is substantially complete. One opponent of tolls, Tiverton Representative John Edwards, said he hopes the Sakonnet toll might still be eliminated in the future.

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

The Rhode Island House of Representations Wednesday passed a budget that includes the first repayment for money owed over the state’s losing investment in video-game maker 38 Studios.  Taxpayers remain on the hook for a total of about 90 million dollars.

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 Tiverton Town Council meets Tuesday night to vote on joining Portsmouth and Bristol in challenging the tolls that will be placed on the Sakonnet River Bridge this summer. The seven-member Tiverton Town Council is expected to join the lawsuit.

Just about everybody in Tiverton uses the Sakonnet River Bridge and they’re not one bit happy about the prospect of paying a toll for the privilege starting July 1st.

RIPTA bus
RIPR file

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will hold a hearing Monday on restoring bus service to Tiverton.  Tiverton hasn’t had bus service in nearly five years. It was suspended when weight limits were placed on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The Sakonnet River Bridge
RIDOT

(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.

Sakonnet River bridge under construction
RI Dept. of Transportation

(PROVIDENCE, RI) The public comment period for a plan to put tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge is coming to a close. Residents have until the end of next week to get their comments in.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation says it has received 500 pieces of correspondence on the subject.

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