2009-07-16 / Editorial

Toll hike on bridge a necessary expense


We all knew it was just a matter of time. The toll costs to cross the Newport Pell Bridge have not changed since the span across the East Passage of Narragansett Bay opened in 1969.

No one likes price hikes, but you have to admit that it’s finally time to raise the fare that motorists pay to cross the big blue-green bridge.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is reviewing a proposal to increase the cash toll from $2 to $4 per crossing. EZPass holders who do not live in Rhode Island will see their tolls go from $1.75 to $4 per crossing. Commercial vehicles will have to pay $1 more per axle to cross the bridge under the plan.

In comparison, it costs $5 for a Rhode Islander to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River.

Regular Newport Pell Bridge users — that includes Jamestown residents who have the new-fangled EZPass transponders — will pay the same toll of 83 cents per crossing, according to the proposal before the RITBA board. It is also important to note that the commuter rates will also remain at 83 cents.

These toll hikes are needed, RITBA officials say, so that the authority can continue to pay the rising maintenance expenses on the aging structure. The bridge is getting older and is going to require some serious work to keep it safe in the years ahead. And, like just about everything else these days, things cost a whole lot more than they used to.

We’re in favor of the proposed toll increases and recognize that one day, the regular bridge user will have to pay more than the current 83 cents. However, we’d like the bridge authority to return a toll on the Mt. Hope Bridge. We think it is only fair that those motorists who use that bridge share in its ongoing maintenance costs.

RITBA will hold a public hearing on the proposed toll increases in Jamestown at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21, in the Town Council chambers at Town Hall. Islanders are urged to attend and speak their minds.

— Jeff McDonough

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