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Letter: Bridge Tolls Will Drive Stake Through Heart of East Bay Economy

A Letter to the Editor from Bristol's Chuck Millard regarding the recent proposed tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Governor Chafee and the DOT are about to drive a stake through the heart of the East Bay economy.  

Make no mistake about it if they succeed in setting up tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge potential visitors from South Eastern MA and Tiverton will change their shopping patterns.  Impulse visits to our community will drop off precipitously.

Tourists are not going to shell out $8.00 to have an ice cream at the and stroll through our shops.  They are not going to 'hop over to the Pot' for drinks or get a bite at . Visitors from MA will not be able to buy the discounted transponders and will have to pay the full freight. Our will suffer.  Who is going to pile their family in the car and come to Bristol for a hike around and lunch in town when there's an $8.00 toll surcharge on top of $5.00 gas!

Rhode Island is a series of peninsulas and islands with 400 miles of coastline connected by a highway system that by necessity includes bridges. Singling us out for living on the East Bay makes as much sense as placing a surcharge on the residents of Foster and Gloster to pay for the inordinate amount of snow removal required in the northern kingdom.We need to forcefully make the point that infrastructure is a shared burden that should be carried evenly.

Our Representatives and Senators are actively fighting this train wreck.  We need to let them know that the troops are behind them.

Charles Millard, Bristol

Keith April 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM
We should put tolls on all RI bridges! If we drivers/commuters/day-trippers choose to USE a bridge for whatever purpose, we should pay for it! What's unfair about that? If those who "benefit" from the bridge (remember, the bridge makes it POSSIBLE for someone in Bristol to go to Newport and vice-versa) don't pay to maintain it, who should? Or we can ignore bridge maintainance altogether and deceive ourselves and each other into believing the bridges is free.
Bear401 April 25, 2012 at 10:26 PM
This state is Always coming up with new & creative ways & creating & increasing new & existing fees & taxes to generate more money they say they need for raods & bridges or whatever. The problem is they never spend it on those things. They hijack/steal it. The Lottery was created to fund the school budgets for cities & towns but the state hijacked that & used it to increase an already top heavy bureaucracy by creating more departments & more management positions on every level for politically connected cronies. For decades the state put their greedy corrupt fingers into the pension fund from their employees who put it there & used it to give huge pensions to many people who weren't part of that system & second pensions to another group of cronies who didn't fully contribute to get that second one. Last year during a Finanace Committee hearing it was uncovered that the state was taking the money from the $7.00 saltwater fishing license & used it to create a few more management positions & purchase a few more vehicles. And someone earlier mentioned the gas tax which was increased under Carcieri. These are only a small selection of examples of the siphoning/stealing/hyjacking of money that this stare has done & used it for something other than what it was intended. Now it is all coming back to bite them you know where. If any of this was done in the private sector that this state likes to compare everything to those employers would be in the penitentiary right now.
Bear401 April 25, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Sorry for my atrocious spelling. It happens when my fingers can't keep up with what I'm thinking. I only type with two. If one gets injured I'm screwed
Robert E April 25, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Keith we are already paying for them the state wants us to pay twice once when we buy gas and pay taxes and now again whaen we pay the toll. the state is still going to take our tax dollars even when there is a toll. Get rid of the gas tax and toll all bridges and roads or keep the tax and end tolls I don't want to pay twice to a state that has no clue what a budget is.
Lynn Shaw April 26, 2012 at 02:19 AM
I will fight against this 100%. Why don't we have tolls on 95?? You pay a toll at the NY line and Mass Turnpike, why don't we let the rest of RI share the cost...
DownTown April 26, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Well Rhody you should be against the tolls on the Sakonnet then and here is why: Bridges built by the DOT with Federal funds have never had tolls a good example is the new Jamestown bridge (which ironically was built with $185 million in Federal funds that were earmarked for East Bat transportation upgrades that area residents fought against and won unfortunately ) so the DOT plans to sell the new Sakonnet to RIBTA who will sell bonds to pay the DOT. Here is the kicker, the DOT will use those funds to repair the 600+ bridges in other parts of the state which NO ONE from the Easy Bay has ever heard off never mind used. The Newport was built with Bonds issued by RIBTA. The Mt Hope was bought by the State who years later created RIBTA and transferred ownership to RIBTA So not only will the East Bay pay their way through these tolls, in essence we will be paying the way to repair bridges all over the State. Check your facts before you post - the only people gaining from the tolls on the Sakonnet live outside the East Bay area.
DownTown April 26, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Aquidneck County and Bristol County are losing millions and millions of school funding from the state. Every community except Barrington (whose residents spearheaded the fight against I-895 sending the $185 million to the Jamestown bridge). When was the last time the State paved 114 before this ongoing boondoggle there now? 15 years? 20 years? How about East and West Main roads? The West Bay has State subsidies for their area in the form of State spending on Quonset Point (bonds issued by the state for Quonset that the State has been paying back not Quonset), enormous $$$ updates to the road infrastructure in the West Bay and finally about $70 million a year that goes to the area through the State to URI instead of directly to students. Oh wait you must have read about the new $28 million dollar Train Station there? We used to have train tracks here but we got a bike path that joggers must not realize exists because they jog on Hope Street. Think about that as you wait for the bus to Providence and then lug your luggage to the Train station from Kennedy Plaza. The State hands Central Falls $40+ million a year for just 19 thousand people as we've been paying 100% of their school costs.. While the rest of the State municipalities raised property taxes on average over the last 20 years by 134% Central Falls has raised taxes just 23%. We must pay our way while the rest of the state gets numerous tax subsidies.
Bear401 April 26, 2012 at 08:39 AM
How about the state fixing/installing sidewalks from Poppasquash Rd into Warren? They are deplorable. Severely cracked & lifted from tree roots & in some places so crumbled they have been turned into nothing more than gravel & nonexistent in other areas. The state must pay $40 million just in interest for the billions it has had to borrow for projects because they siphoned money away, like the gas tax, etc from where it was intended. Do any of us really expect anything else from the most corrupt crony infested state in the country?
DownTown April 26, 2012 at 12:18 PM
That's a great example - the sidewalks. A young man was killed walking in the road near Rockwell school what a year ago? If the sidewalk was in decent shape he'd have been walking on it and still be alive today. The last time hat sidewalk was repaired was never and it was probably put in before WW2. The State loaned Curt Schilling's company $75 million to come to the State and he located the new offices in Providence. They were in Maynard, MA in the old DEC complex. You couldn't imagine two more opposite locations. Maynard is rural with unlimited parking and Providence is city with no parking. . Regardless the State could have thrown a couple of million to fix up the old US Rubber.Kaiser complex and that type of company could move in there. I can't name one multi million dollar project that the State has spearheaded in the East Bay. We are being taxed to death having to pay by use for the bridges while the rest of the state feeds off of us. If the State broke out taxes paid in versus State money spent per municipality here this would be so clear that outrage would rise up here.
Rhody April 26, 2012 at 02:16 PM
DT, please point me to where you're getting this information from: "...the DOT plans to sell the new Sakonnet to RIBTA who will sell bonds to pay the DOT. Here is the kicker, the DOT will use those funds to repair the 600+ bridges in other parts of the state which NO ONE from the Easy Bay has ever heard off never mind used." I can't find an article stating that anywhere. Thanks. Also, take it easy with the "check your facts before you post" bit. It's comments such as those that make these comment sections turn into nasty personal attacks where no meaningful discourse takes place.
DownTown April 26, 2012 at 04:26 PM
That came directly from Michael Lewis the head of the DOT. Ir was in the Journal last year and it was online at Projo.com. When they switched to ProvidenceJournal.com the archives disappeared online and even when they are online it clicking on anything from projo.com in search results just goes to the main providencejournal.com.
Charles Millard April 26, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Here's food for thought from the Bridge Authority's own web site: "No tax dollars, federal, state, or local, are received by the Authority for debt service or expenses incurred in the operation and maintenance of the bridges and associated buildings and grounds. Rather, all obligations are satisfied with funds received in the form of toll revenue and investment income." Has any other State been so incompetent as to set up an entity that is NOT eligible for federal funding for bridge repairs!!! Let me reiterate. Only bridges run by the Turnpike Authority are NOT eligible. If the Turnpike Authority were a division of DOT we would be eligible for federal highway funding for The Newport Bridge and the Mount Hope Bridge. 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.!!! Chuck Millard
Charles Millard April 26, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Rhody, Not for nothing, if one is a Mass. resident one cannot get a RI transponder and will pay the full freight to patronize our shops and restaurants.
Charles Millard April 26, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Here's some more tidbits from the RITBA web site. The Organizational Chart list 45 employees including 9 customer service representatives! Sounds like Lands End. Has anyone checked out the Taj Mahal under construction at the toll plaza in Jamestown. Not a word on their website about what it is or what it cost. Lets face it the Bridge Authority was created in 1954 as a creative way to fund bridges. That was long before the Federal Highway Administration was created to build and support highways throughout the country. Today its a dinosaur whose sole purpose is to provide jobs for favored workers. we need to get behind Representaive Morrison's legislation making it a division of DOT. Chuck Millard
John Coccio April 27, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Chuck, I have emailed Sen Ottiano about an idea and have floated it here as a way to eliminate tolls, AND roll back the gas tax to 5 cents a gallon. AGAIN, in this day and age with more efficient cars on the road (lets not forget that by 2025, just 13 SHORT years from now cars will be required to average 54.5 MPG). More efficient=less gas, and less gas = less money for road repairs. We MUST dedicate revenues from driving to repair the roads we travel on. Criticizing RIBTA for doing it's job (actually using the mo nies it collects to repair the bridges it is in charge of) does no good The $17-18 million they collect is a pittance compared to the $7 billion state budget. Replace the tolls, gas tax, and muni. excise tax with a tax based on the mileage driven each yr. Odometer readings are recorded at each inspection, and that can be used to determine the amount owed. Yes, I know not all miles are driven in RI by our cars, so I'm sure we can determine what the average car drives in state, and base the tax on that percentage. Cities and towns can collect the tax (just like the excise tax), keep a certain % for themselves for local road upkeep and pass the rest on to the state . High mileage drivers and fleets can choose to pay a flat fee per car to keep their bill down.
DownTown April 27, 2012 at 09:50 PM
As of right now they are only allowing tolls to pay for building new federal highways so that's not happening. They handed out three permissions recently in Virginia, Missouri and one other state all for new highways. Rte-24 is not a Federal highway because the curves don't meet their standards. Other roads they could hit because they are state would be 146 or 6 in Providence.
DownTown April 27, 2012 at 09:59 PM
John you cannot tax someone from RI for driving out of state. This idea of yours has been floated at the Federal level and shot down because every car would have to have a GPS in it dedicated to that purpose. The expense and the privacy issue have put the idea into the trash. The idea has been around for a long time. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42919365/ns/politics-more_politics/t/pay-mile-timely-tax-idea-or-privacy-threat/#.T5sV6-HcTbU This just isn't going to happen. Also RIPTA gets one third of the gas tax in RI so people who buy a car, pay the taxes and pay for insurance and gas are also subsidizing RIPTA. If it's so little state money they receive they should just generate it through ticket prices instead.
John Coccio April 27, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Again, I said you do it through the inspection system. The odometer reading is recorded every time you inspect the car. I'm sure we can find a study as to the average intra-state mileage driven and tax at a rate accordingly.
DownTown April 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM
You can't prove that those miles driven were driven in Rhode Island. That law wouldn't last 2 months before it was thrown out. Rhode Island has no authority to tax anyone for miles driven out of state.
DownTown April 28, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Just to add that using an average intrastate mileage would be akin to taxing income based on average earnings. You can't tax individuals based on a guess.
Bob Venice April 28, 2012 at 11:09 PM
I can understand the reason that citizens of Bristol would be concerned with tolls on the Sakonet Bridge. But do not use the term East Bay. The tolls will not kill Warren. The Town is already dead, and you can not kill something twice. As to the Mt Hope Bridge, maybe the state can issue free passes for certain hours for the people who work on the other side. This would make it fair for everone.
DownTown April 29, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Charles that's a great take on this.
John Coccio April 30, 2012 at 11:13 AM
I would say they do. State law "requires" you to make up the difference for sales tax. For instance, if you bought a $700 dollar laptop in NH, you are "required" to report this purchase and pay the $49 sales tax. (Not that anybody would be foolish enough to report it) Nevertheless, it is law. You buy a car in Mass, you pay RI sales tax. BTW I have it on good authority from a member of the house that it is at least being discussed as an alternative.
DownTown April 30, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I can see where requiring you to make up the difference but I buy my gas in Massachusetts because their gas tax is 8 cents less than in RI. So now I have paid the gas tax in MA and you want to charge me based on a guess as to how many mile you think I have driven in RI? So you would be obliged to credit me for the tax I paid in Massachusetts to pay a tax on miles driven in RI that you can't prove I drove. Good luck with that hair brained scheme.
DownTown April 30, 2012 at 10:40 PM
The added traffic may hurt Warren though. When I use the term Easy Bay I'm including parts of Newport County.
John Coccio April 30, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Hey Mr Sunshine, did you miss the part where I said that we would roll the gas tax here DOWN from 24.5 cpg to FIVE cpg???? That would make your 8 cpg "cheaper" Mass gas 11 cents MORE EXPENSIVE!!!!! Instead of whining and crying about the situation here I suggest you come up with something better or MOVE THE HELL TO MASS where the sun seems to always shine in your eyes.
John Coccio May 01, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Want a toll "booth"? Lower the fuel tax to 5 cpg on diesel and put a service center in on 95 N and S near rt 138. Watch the trucks pull in and pay their $5-7 "toll" by fueling up here instead of elsewhere.
DownTown May 01, 2012 at 06:47 AM
Rhody, this letter to the editor refers to the article that I referred to "Sakonnet tolls could help maintain bridges". Regarding the March 8 article "Sakonnet tolls could help maintain bridges": Could one of The Journal's excellent investigative reporters find out where the 33 cents-per-gallon Rhode Island gasoline tax goes? Wasn't that supposed to be used for maintaining roads and transportation infrastructure? http://news.providencejournal.com/letters-to-the-editor/2012/03/susan-r-berge-arent-we-already-paying.html
DownTown May 02, 2012 at 01:53 AM
The idea originated with Carcieri and Michael Lewis is on board with it. http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2011/02/history-for-wednesday-feb-2-20.html Governor Carcieri proposes a toll on the new Sakonnet River Bridge just like the one on the Pell Bridge over Newport Harbor, $4 each way or 83 cents for Rhode Island residents with EZPass. Commuters would not see the toll until 2012 at the earliest, after completion of the new span, now under construction. The toll hinges on a proposal to sell the $164-million bridge to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which would turn over nearly 70 percent of its collections to the state until it has repaid the state's cost for the span, which is expected to take 20 years. The Authority would get more revenue out of the deal than if it reinstated a toll on the Mount Hope Bridge, according to state transportation officials. The state would use its share of the toll money, an estimated $156.6 million in the first 10 years, to make a dent in much-needed repairs on 164 bridges.
John Coccio May 03, 2012 at 11:01 PM
http://www.autoblog.com/2012/05/03/new-cafe-rules-and-a-stagnant-gas-tax-mean-big-deficits-for-infr/#continued More proof a mileage tax makes sense. The Federal Highway trust fund has taken in more than it has spent only ONCE in the last 11 yrs.

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