2014-03-06 / Editorial

When the ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it rule’ applies

Several lawmakers at the State House want to block further attempts to advance the toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. In doing so, they propose various plans to fund future bridge maintenance in Rhode Island.

In our opinion, the sticking point in all of these proposals is the effort to either do away with the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, or make the agency part of the state Department of Transportation.

RITBA has been tasked with taking care of the Newport Pell Bridge and the Mount Hope Bridge for several decades now. Recently the Jamestown Bridge and the Sakonnet Bridge were added to authority’s stable.

While DOT has allowed bridge maintenance to lag far behind adequate in this state, authority has done a solid job of keeping its waterway spans in top condition. If the Newport Pell Bridge were cared for like other state bridges, we would be having a discussion as to how taxpayers would fund the construction of a replacement bridge. Instead, we have a bridge – our state’s largest – that is expected to remain in service for many decades ahead.

In their mad scramble to make sure that their constituents don’t have to pay bridge tolls, lawmakers want to reward the DOT’s poor performance by adding toll revenues to its coffers. We would rather the lawmakers figure out how to pay for maintenance of the Sakonnet, Jamestown and Mount Hope bridges without dissolving the state’s existing successful bridge authority.

Let’s keep the bridge authority focused on maintaining our state’s major bridge structures. Don’t give the responsibility to the DOT. Otherwise, 10 years from now we will need to institute some hefty taxes or tolls when the repair bills for all of these big bridges finally come due.

— Jeff McDonough

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