2013-08-22 / Editorial

A solution for the Sakonnet bridge toll

This past weekend someone set fire to the utility lines at the Sakonnet River Bridge in an apparent protest to the new 10-cent toll.

Minimal damage was reported to the tolling equipment. As planned, tolls went into effect on Monday and it now costs one thin dime to cross the bridge. There are no toll booths. The fee is charged to the EZPass transponder.

Vandalism at the bridge steps over the line of common decency. Those who oppose the tolls can do so without breaking the law and the willful destruction of public property.

We find it difficult to understand why people are opposed to paying a small fee to pay for the upkeep on the bridge. The toll is known as a user fee and we will probably see more of them as the state struggles to keep its budget balanced and the taxes low. The state Department of Transportation has clearly stated it has no money to pay for the maintenance of the Sakonnet bridge, so the structure was turned over to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority with the understanding that a toll on the newly-built span would fund its upkeep.

As we can see from the Newport Pell and Mount Hope bridges, RITBA does an outstanding job of maintaining its bridges. Motorists who travel across the Sakonnet bridge should be thrilled that RITBA is in charge.

We suggest a simple solution to the problem at the Sakonnet bridge since people are so opposed to paying a toll. Close the Sakonnet River Bridge for one month. Give motorists an opportunity to find out what life is like without the bridge.

That’s exactly what will happen if the bridge is not properly maintained. It will take a few years, but nature will works its way. The weather and saltwater will corrode the metal structure and before long the bridge would have to be closed for safety reasons. Then a new bridge would again need to be built. Remember that trucks and school buses were banned from the previous Sakonnet bridge because the structure had become unsafe due to poor maintenance. The same thing will happen all over again.

The Sakonnet River Bridge is new and should last quite a few years if properly maintained. We can pay as we go or pay later, but the latter will cost a whole lot more. It makes more sense to pay the tolls now.

So close the Sakonnet bridge for one month. By the end of the month, people will be happy to pay the toll.

— Jeff McDonough

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