Workshops planned for Sakonnet Bridge tolling
The state Department of Transportation has organized two workshops next week to allow the public to learn more and ask questions about the financial challenges the state faces in properly maintaining four of Rhode Island’s largest bridges. The workshops will also focus on the possibility of tolling the Sakonnet River Bridge.
The first workshop is set for Monday, Dec. 3, at Portsmouth High School. The second workshop is the following night at Tiverton High School. Both meetings take place from 7 to 10 p.m. In addition to speaking at the workshops, the public will have the opportunity to provide written comment on the proposal.
The transportation department is hosting these meetings to gain public input on the possible location of a tolling facility, and the impacts a toll could have on other roads on either side of the bridge.
“We understand there are great concerns about introducing a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge,” said Michael P. Lewis, director of RIDOT. “We look forward to hearing from the public about issues of greatest concern to them and will work diligently to address them wherever possible.”
The General Assembly this spring passed legislation authorizing the transfer of ownership of the Sakonnet River Bridge and the Jamestown Bridge from the transportation department to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. Revenues from a new toll facility near the Sakonnet River Bridge and the existing toll revenue from the Newport Bridge would be combined to fund ongoing maintenance and capital improvements of all four bridges.
All bridges, especially those spanning salt water, need ongoing repairs and maintenance. Heavy usage and exposure to the elements cause deterioration that needs to be addressed to ensure bridge integrity and driver safety. The bridges are among the most expensive transportation assets in the state, both in terms of maintenance costs and replacement costs if not properly maintained. Combined, they represent 20 percent of the bridge deck area of all bridges statewide.