2013-01-31 / News

Bill introduced to prevent tolling on Sakonnet

State Rep. John Edwards is sponsoring legislation that would effectively stand in the way of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority placing a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The proposed House bill would repeal an item in the budget preventing the state Department of Transportation from turning control of the Sakonnet and Jamestown bridges over to the bridge authority.

“My hope is that these bills send a clear message to my colleagues that this issue is not dead and must be revisited,” said Edwards (DPortsmouth, Tiverton). “Putting a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge will devastate the small businesses in my district and Newport County. It will also be another tax on the residents of this area and a shortsighted one at that.”

Sen. Walter Felag Jr., a Democrat who represents Warren, Bristol and Tiverton, is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate. “If the governor and the General Assembly truly want economic development, they must rescind this toll so that businesses will not stay away,” said Felag.

A second bill introduced in the House calls for the dismantling of the bridge authority. Instead of four governor-appointed members, the proposed legislation would replace the current board of directors with leaders in municipalities most affected by bridge tolling: Newport, Jamestown, Portsmouth and Tiverton. All members with the exception of the director of transportation would have to be residents of Newport County.

Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton) plans to introduce legislation mirroring the second House bill in the Senate.

“This is going to have a massive effect on not only the residents of Aquidneck Island, but on the business community,” said Edwards. “With economic development our number one priority in the General Assembly, we cannot afford to allow a measure like this bridge toll to stifle our efforts.”

Sen. President Teresa Paiva Weed is co-sponsoring the Senate bill to prevent RIDOT from transferring control of the Jamestown and Sakonnet spans to the bridge authority. The legislation has been referred to the chamber’s finance committee.

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