2013-01-31 / Editorial

How much will it cost to cross the bridge?

Jamestowners should be aware of proposed legislation now before the General Assembly that could end up increasing the price of tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge.

Legislation approved last year assigned responsibility for the upkeep of the Jamestown Bridge and the Sakonnet River Bridge to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which was already charged with the maintenance of the Newport Pell Bridge and the Mount Hope Bridge.

The measure created plenty of controversy because RITBA has proposed tolling the Sakonnet bridge. Residents of Tiverton, Little Compton and Portsmouth do not want to have any tolls on the Sakonnet bridge.

However, if the tolling of the Sakonnet bridge is blocked, RITBA will have a $17 million shortfall in its maintenance budget for the four bridges. Several legislators have suggested that the tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge be increased to make up the difference. They say that most of the maintenance is needed on the Newport and Mount Bridge bridges.

Crossing the Newport Pell Bridge could become rather expensive if the tolls on just one bridge are expected to pay for the maintenance of four bridges.

There are several bridge-related bills before the General Assembly. One bill would repeal Article 20 of the state’s 2013 budget. That is the article that transferred the authority of the Jamestown Bridge and the Sakonnet River Bridge from the state Department of Transportation to RITBA.

Another bill would change the make up of the RITBA board of directors. The RITBA board is currently comprised of directors appointed by the governor for four-year terms. The proposed bill would have those positions filled by the mayor of Newport and town council presidents from Jamestown, Middletown, Tiverton and Portsmouth.

It seems to us that RITBA currently works well with the composition of its current board of directors. As the saying goes, if its not broke, don’t fix it.

Do you have an opinion on the tolling of the bridges? If so, contact our state legislators.

— Jeff McDonough

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