2012-02-23 / Editorial

Let’s keep RITBA in charge of the bridges

Legislation has been introduced at the General Assembly that would abolish the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. Responsibility for the Newport Pell Bridge and the Mount Hope Bridge would be turned over to the state Department of Transportation.

This would be a terrible mistake.

The state DOT has a history of preferring to build over the maintenance of infrastructure. One only has to remember the old Jamestown Bridge which had to be replaced due to a lack of maintenance over the years.

RITBA is tasked only with the maintenance of these two bridges, both vital assets to Rhode Island. The governor has proposed to turn over the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge and the new Sakonnet River Bridge to RITBA.

There is no argument that RITBA has an excellent track record of maintaining the Pell and Mount Hope bridges. Both structures are in excellent shape (as opposed to many other bridges around the state that are entrusted to the DOT). RITBA’s sole mission is the keep these assets in good shape. The same performance should continue if entrusted with the additional bridges. In fact, RITBA would then oversee most of the state’s major water spans.

If the DOT were to take over the bridges, money from the bridge tolls would go into the state general fund. Given our state budget record, it would not be long until less money is spent on bridge maintenance as other budget needs take precedence.

When I am driving across the Newport Pell Bridge I want to know that my tolls are keeping that bridge in the best repair possible. I’m sure that most islanders will agree.

The RITBA should stay in charge of our big bridges.

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