Opposition continues to build in the East Bay against proposed tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge. The latest effort happened Monday, when the "No Tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge" Facebook page launched.
The administrator, Christy Nadalin of Bristol, said Thursday she's looking to make everyone aware of the situation. As of 5 p.m. Thursday the page had 25 "likes."
Currently, Gov. Lincoln Chafee's budget calls to transfer ownership of the Sakonnet River Bridge from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation(RIDOT) to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RIBTA).
In a move to create a new revenue stream for fiscally-strapped Rhode Island, putting tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge has been proposed if RITBA maintains it. Local legislators are trying to head off the governor's proposal by passing bills that would prohibit tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge and dissolve RITBA.
"We all know there is a problem with the way our state is run, but it is time for us to take action and engage on these issues that have a real impact on what is the only issue facing our state right now that we should be talking about: the economy," Nadalin said.
She added the state is currently one of the most business-unfriendly in the nation and small businesses are suffocating under the weight of excessive taxes, regulations and growth-stifling policies.
"Not only are businesses closing, new ones aren't coming in," Nadalin said.
With neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut looking more appealing to businesses, and being just a short drive away, she said the unemployment numbers expose that. According the Department of Labor and Training, the state unemployment rate as of March is 11.1 percent.
"Clearly, we are not doing what we need to do to stay competitive," Nadalin said. "So knowing that, it is pure insanity to institute a toll that would add a surcharge to come to our towns from Massachusetts to shop, eat in our restaurants, and visit our museums."
To the pulse of it, Nadalin takes issue with how Rhode Island structured their bridge ownership and maintenance. According to a post on the Facebook page about the legislation by Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Bristol, Warren) to dissolve RITBA, the agency, which also manages Newport's Pell Bridge, is ineligible for federal funding.
"This is idiotic," Nadalin said, adding that if RITBA were a division of DOT, Rhode Island would be eligible for federal highway funding for its bridges. "The minute we turn the Sakonnet River Bridge over to the Turnpike Authority and they place a toll on it, we are out of luck and on our own. Our federal tax dollars will fix bridges in Idaho but not R.I."
She hopes the bill to prohibit tolls passes, and the local bridges can be eligible for federal highway funds. Then, the toll chatter goes away, and so does the Facebook page, Nadalin said.
"We need real, long-term, growth-focused solutions, and charging Vavao $8 to drive to her favorite bakery in Fall River for her Easter sweet bread is not the way to do it," she said.
Opposition to the Sakonnet Bridge tolls is large, with the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Portsmouth, Tiverton and Little Compton town councils all in agreement. A recent letter from a Bristol resident also highlights the public outrage.