2014-03-27 / News

Legislature green lights extension of 10-cent toll

The House and the Senate chambers passed legislation on March 20 extending the date that the state bridge authority must continue using a 10-cent cap on the Sakonnet River Bridge tolls.

Legislators approved their versions of the legislation in a 68-2 vote in the House and a 36-0 vote in the Senate. Both Jamestown delegates voted in favor of the extension. Each individual bill can only be transmitted to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s desk for a signature into law after receiving approval from both chambers. As of Tuesday afternoon, Faye Zuckerman, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said the bills have yet to pass in concurrence.

Sponsored by Easy Bay lawmakers Rep. John G. Edwards and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, the bills extend the 10-cent cap on the bridge toll from April 1 to May 15. The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority gave its approval of the resolution at its board meeting on March 19.

Lawmakers introduced the legislation so it could buy more time to vet the process for other bills, many stemming from discussions from the special legislative com- mission charged with finding alternate ways to fund the state’s bridges. One of those options is a transportation proposal aimed to create a predictable statewide funding source for roads and bridges while nixing the toll on the Sakonnet Bridge.

Under the formula, the state would establish a new infrastructure trust fund using a number of existing revenue streams to maintain all state-controlled roads and bridges.

For almost two years, East Bay lawmakers have been exploring ways to ensure that Aquidneck Island’s economic vitality stays intact, which many argued a toll over the Sakonnet River could seriously endanger.

“This measure will give us more time to do what we told our residents we would do,” said Edwards, who represents Portsmouth and Tiverton. “Fully analyze every viable alternative to this toll.”

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