2013-04-18 / News

Vote taken to toll Sakonnet River Bridge

The chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority recommended Wednesday that a 75-cent toll be placed on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

David Darlington made his recommendations at the authority’s April 17 meeting held at Town Hall. He asked the board of directors to approve the toll that would charge Rhode Island E-ZPass customers 75 cents.

The result of the vote was unavailable by press time.

Darlington also recommended two discounts. First, any vehicle with an in-state E-ZPass transponder would be subject to the discounted rate of 75 cents, not just Rhode Island residents. The second affords Rhode Island E-ZPass customers an unlimited number of trips daily over both the Newport and Sakonnet bridges after they pay for one round-trip per bridge that day.

Like the Newport Bridge, instate E-ZPass customers can take advantage of a 30-day unlimited crossing rate. At the Sakonnet River Bridge, the rate proposed by Darlington was $36.14 per transponder.

Darlington’s proposal also offers a new discount for trucks: twoaxle trucks will be able to cross a bridge an unlimited amount of times each month for $100.

The basic toll rates on the Newport Bridge will not be affected by the vote, but the most frequent travelers should experience a drop in tolls due to the new policy of one round-trip payment per day.

The board voted in January 2012 to raise the toll on the Newport Bridge, but delayed the increase when legislation of a four-bridge system was introduced. In June 2012, the state General Assembly passed the bill authorizing the creation of the four-bridge system. The bridge authority now maintains the Jamestown, Newport, Mount Hope and Sakonnet spans.

“At the workshops, members of the public who chose to review the information and comment on the toll options told us they preferred this tolling structure,” said Darlington. “We also wanted to address the concerns about the impact on Massachusetts residents who commute frequently to Aquidneck Island, and the offer of the Rhode Island E-ZPass rate goes a long way to mitigate that concern.”

According to Darlington, the toll is necessary because the authority cannot accept an asset, such as the Sakonnet River Bridge, without a dedicated and reliable revenue stream. The board has been open about the high maintenance costs of the bridges and has projected that the four bridges will need $350 million over 10 years to keep them safe.

“Bridge safety is our highest priority,” Darlington said. “We wholeheartedly believe that the motoring public deserves bridges that are safe. In addition, we don’t ever want to be in the position to have to replace an entire bridge due to a lack of maintenance. The cost would be astronomical, whereas a schedule of ongoing maintenance is more affordable and an industry best practice.”

Without an E-ZPass of any form, the toll to cross the Sakonnet River Bridge will be $5.25. There will be no toll collectors. Cameras will be mounted on an over-road gantry, much like the structures commonly used to hold directional signs over the highway. Photographs of license plates will be taken and the authority will mail invoices to any owner not using E-ZPass.

Most trucks with an E-ZPass will be charged $1.88 per axle.

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