2010-01-14 / About Town

RITBA board hears two toll reports

The R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority accepted two reports during its board meeting at the Jamestown Philomenian Library yesterday: One that outlines potential future toll increases on the Newport Pell Bridge and one on the feasibility of reinstituting tolls on the Mt. Hope Bridge.

The Pell Bridge report looks at “revenues needed down the road,” according to David Darlington, chair of RITBA. Last year, RITBA received approval from the General Assembly to issue bonds to fund improvements to the Pell Bridge, a process that requires the studies.

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. of New York, N.Y. completed both studies.

“As mentioned numerous times at public meetings and at our board meetings, the board expects that regular toll increases will be necessary to ensure that sufficient funds are available for bridge expenses,” said Darlington.

With the assumption of the incremental toll increases at the levels specified, RITBA will see its annual revenue increase from $16.9 million in the current fiscal year to $47 million by 2039, the last year included in the study. The forecasted O&M expenses for that period are about $7 million, growing to $13.3 million by 2039.

In September, 2009, the RITBA board voted on a 10-year plan that identified $210 million of major expenditures for both bridges.

Jacobs Engineering Group also concluded that the restoration of tolls on the Mt. Hope Bridge is feasible. The approximate capital costs for constructing a new toll plaza will be approximately $3.2 million. Jacobs also estimated the cost of an all-electronic tolling system, where non-E-ZPass drivers will be mailed an invoice after video surveillance captures their license plate numbers. That cost is projected to be $3 million.

The RITBA board will take the study under advisement and is expected to schedule a series of public hearings to solicit public input prior to adoption of a final decision. Legislative approval would be required to implement any of the scenarios developed by Jacobs, except the reinstitution of the 1998 toll.

A copy of the full study is at www.ritba.org.

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