The following is the official release from the Rhode Island General Assembly:
If shrinking government and making it more efficient can save taxpayer money, Rep. Richard P. Morrison (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) has a suggestion about where to start.
He has introduced legislation that will dissolve the quasi-public Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, moving all its duties and functions to the RI Department of Transportation in a new Turnpike and Bridge Division.
“Maybe back in 1954, when the Turnpike and Bridge Authority was created by the General Assembly, there was good reason for a separate entity to maintain and operate bridge projects in the state,” said Representative Morrison. “I am not aware of any compelling reason for the authority to continue to exist now, when the authority is responsible for only two bridges and when it makes much more sense to have bridges, like all other roads in the state, under the control and operation of the DOT.”
“The Turnpike and Bridge Authority is just, in my opinion, another layer of government that doesn’t need to exist, and especially since, as a quasi-public agency, it is not directly answerable to the citizens of the state,” he said.
Representative Morrison said he is one of those legislators who has actively opposed plans by the Authority to institute tolls on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges. But he said his legislation is not solely a response to those proposals by the Authority.
He did suggest, however, that by eliminating the Authority and placing its functions within the DOT, the resulting efficiencies “might eliminate the need to place tolls on the bridges, or raise the toll prices.”
“I am primarily concerned about too many quasi-public agencies operating in Rhode Island, with too little oversight,” he said. “There are good arguments for the existence of some, such as the Economic Development Corporations, but I believe the Department of Transportation has the experience and the expertise to do the same work that is being done now by the Bridge Authority.”
The bill would place the new Turnpike and Bridge Division under the direction of an assistant director at DOT.
The Morrison bill would also transfer to the Department of Transportation all powers, control and jurisdiction of and title to the Sakonnet River Bridge.
The bill, 2012-H 7457, has been referred to the House Committee on Finance. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) and Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren).
“This is not about tolls. It is about who is best suited to operate the bridges in the state and how can we, considering our state’s financial condition, do that the most effectively and efficiently,” said Representative Morrison. “In the case of state government, multiple layers of bureaucracy and authority are not the best way to do things.”