The Board of Directors of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce recently voted unanimously to support Sen. Louis DiPalma’s bill to freeze tolls on the Newport Bridge and prohibit tolling on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
Co-sponsored by Sens. Teresa Paiva Weed, Walter S. Felag, Christopher S. Ottiano and David Bates, DiPalma’s bill is unique from all other legislation relating to bridge tolling. Senate Bill 0242 would prohibit tolling on the Sakonnet, Mt. Hope and Jamestown Verrazano Bridges and stop any future increases in toll rates on the Newport Pell Bridge.
This bill is the first to address the need for a sustainable funding mechanism for bridge maintenance and for state Department of Transportation (DOT) funding, making it the first real opportunity for a funding stream in lieu of tolls.
“Instituting tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge will negatively impact all Rhode Island residents and businesses by increasing the cost of living and of doing business in Newport County and the East Bay," said Laura Pedrick, chair of the Chamber Board of Directors.
Pedrick also noted that additional tolls would:
- Increase the cost of goods and services to Aquidneck Island and the East Bay.
- Increase the cost of doing business to all Aquidneck Island businesses. Increase the cost to commuters who travel the toll bridges.
- Increase the cost of compensation/recruitment for employers seeking qualified candidates from Southeastern New England.
- Decrease our competitive position in preparation for the anticipated 2015 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process by increasing the commuter cost for the Defense industry including Raytheon, NUWC and Naval Station Newport employees who commute over tolled bridges
“This is an issue of equity and fairness," said DiPalma. "Any additional tolls would place an unfair burden on Newport Pell and Sakonnet Bridge users. We would be the only communities in the state required to pay for the maintenance of our own transportation infrastructure.”
“Expansion of tolling to the Sakonnet River Bridge sets a dangerous precedent for future State highway and transportation infrastructure projects," said Chamber Executive Director Jody Sullivan. "Rest assured that if this toll passes there will be a toll coming soon to a neighborhood near you. The Chamber and its members will work together to gather support for this bill”.
The Chamber Board also expressed concern that a comprehensive analysis of the real economic impact to the existing and future business environment, cost of living, and employment and workforce, has not been completed. The Chamber will forward copies of the attached resolution to local, state and federal government officials.
What do you think? Do you support Sen. DiPalma's bill? Have your say in the comments section below.