2011-09-29 / News

Public hearings scheduled to discuss Mouth Hope tolling

Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority will hold public hearings in October to share the updated details of its Mount Hope Bridge toll feasibility report, which was made public in January 2010.

“During the process of studying the toll structure for the Newport Pell Bridge, at the public’s request, RITBA committed to study the feasibility of reinstituting tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge,” said David Darlington, chairman of the RITBA board. “We have pledged to hold public meetings before making any decisions so motorists could have a forum to express their opinions about re-tolling the bridge.”

RITBA hired Jacobs Engineering Group, of New York, N.Y., to complete the study. Five potential tolling options are outlined in the report. Each of the scenarios developed by Jacobs includes reduced rates available for those who qualify for and own R.I. E-ZPass transponders.

RITBA’s toll policy consists of:

• Affording commuters with R.I. transponders substantial discounts.

• Charging tolls based on the number of axles.

• Implementing tolls that will not unduly remove traffic from the bridge.

• Providing sufficient revenue to support the operations, maintenance and capital improvement requirements of both the Newport Pell and Mount Hope bridges.

The feasibility study estimated costs for toll plaza construction and a toll collection system as well as future operating expenses. The approximate capital costs for constructing a new toll plaza with two E-ZPass-only lanes and two cash/E-ZPass lanes would be $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 $2.3 million.

“For a number of years, the RITBA board has communicated its expectation that re-tolling the Mount Hope Bridge would be explored as we must ensure that suffi cient funds are available to maintain the bridges,” said Darlington.

In addition to the maintenance costs, RITBA expects to conduct major upgrades to the Mount Hope Bridge through long-range capital planning under its renewal and replacement program. These projects include painting, structural steel repairs, deck repairs, and more.

The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. on the following dates and at the following locations: Wednesday, Oct. 5, at Jacky’s Galaxie, located at 383 Metacom Ave. in Bristol; and Thursday, Oct. 6, at Portsmouth High School. A copy of the study can be downloaded from ritba.org.

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