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Rep. Morrison Introduces Bill To Dissolve Turnpike and Bridge Authority

The bill would place the new Turnpike and Bridge Division under the direction of an assistant director at DOT.

The Rhode Island General Assembly recently announced a new piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Richard Morrison.

The bill would essentially dissolve the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and move all of its projects to be handled by a division of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

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.”

Bob Cosgrove February 15, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Kiss the Mt Hope and Pell bridges good bye whit the track record of the DOT you better buy a row boat to get back and forth betwween Portsmouth and Bristol. Almost every bridge the the DOT is charged with are in terrable shape. You would think with the Sakonet River bridge and the Escape bridge in Portsmouth the last thing they would want is these same people maintaining these two vital links to Aquidneck island.
3 All the Way February 15, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Richard Morrison has just proved he has no clue. He was elected to represent some of us in the East Bay, however, his wanting to put the RITBA under the the "Less Than Watchful Eye" of the Dept. of Transportation is just laughable. This is the same DOT that has over-spent by "Millions" of dollars on the Pawtucket River Bridge Project, the demise of the Sakonnet River Bridge and lets not forget the Barrington Bridge repair. Richard Morrison has "Lost His Mind". Mr. Morrison, Please let us know why the move to the DOT is a wise one? The DOT's lack of management skill's and fiscal responsibility should be reason enough for this proposed bill to be defeated. Just look at the facts. The DOT has squanderd Millions upon millions of tax-payer money. The lack of maintainance of the above mentioned projects have led to a mess of our roadways. Mr. Morrison are you really thinking for yourself. In my opinion I think not. Who are you working for by trying to get this move done? Is this tied to Union paybacks? I also hope the other area Reps, Malik and Felag get of this "Road to Knowhere Idea" In closing, I hope Mr. Morrison changes two things: 1- Stop this foolish move of combining the RITBA to the DOT. 2- Your lawsuit against the Town of Bristol for land you NEVER OWNED is just a shame. ps, Tell the unions they can have you back...I hope someone steps up and run's against you in your next election. The people deserve better.
palmtree February 15, 2012 at 10:52 PM
This Bill makes perfect sense. Not sure why the state ever had two agencies doing the same thing. Sounds like government waste to me. DOT definetely isn't always the most competent, but that is a management issue and not a structure issue. This is a good idea and should certainly save the tax payers money.
Giordano Bruno February 15, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Not a good idea. As has been already stated the record of the DOT leaves much to be desired. Although it would be kind of interesting to see the deck of the Mt Hope Bridge supported by timbers.
Joe Sousa. February 15, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Bob, did you ever think we should also reform the DOT ? "The lack of maintainance of the above mentioned projects have led to a mess of our roadways. " The legislature caused it, not DOT. Your logic makes me wonder.
Bear401 February 15, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Finally!! someone is making cuts at the top in this state!!! Hopefully this is just the first step in many more needed ones to eliminate the far too numerous numbers of cronies with direct and/or indirect connections in the state house who are sitting in unnecessary middle mangement positions, some of which were created specifically for them, in Every State Department, quasi public or not. I do have a question. What happens to the cronies who are in the TBA now? Will they actually get pink slips and told to start filling out their resume's in preperation for finding a job in the private sector? Or will their connections in the state house create some unnecessary high paying middle mangement job for them somewhere else in the state?
3 All the Way February 15, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Palmtree and Bear401: Why are you two drinking the Morrison Kool-Aid? Lets get this straight...The DOT ruined the Sakonnet Bridge to a point of repairing was out of the question....The Pawtucket River Bridge cost Rhode Island Millions of dollars more than expected and that bridge "repair" has to be repaired again due to faulty construction (not to mention employees sleeping on the job. Let not forget the mess in Barrington. Other than that give me a good reason to swap the RIBTA to the DOT. My guess is that your tolls on the Pell bridge went up 17 cents. Smarten up!!!
DownTown February 16, 2012 at 03:46 AM
RIBTA wasn't formed till the mid 60's. In 1954 the Mt Hope Bridge Authority was formed when the Haffenreffer, Brewery (who had taken over the bridge from the original owner, the New Hope Bridge Company in 1931). What I find interesting here as should everyone who lives in the Bristol & Newport counties is that the new Jamestown bridge enjoys no tolls. The new Jamestown bridge already has needed major maintenance in 2007 only 15 years after in was opened to traffic. So what is interesting about that you say? Well the new Jamestown bridge was built with $185 million in Federal funding that was earmarked for Rte I-895 which would have been built in the 80's and solved traffic problems here for many decades to come. So money that was spent there was meant to be spent here. Now they want us to pay tolls on the Mt Hope and the Sakonnet yet the money from the Sakonnet tolls will pay for maintenance of the 600+ bridges in every OTHER part of the state. This has already been outlined by the DOT in the Providence Journal. So, we pay for maintenance EVERYWHERE ELSE and the money that was earmarked for us was spent SOMEWHERE ELSE while we pay TOLLS here. Look at the roads in Newport and Bristol counties and ask yourself how long its been since they have been pave? Look at projects that state and federal monies are funding in Washington County and the rest of the state. Millions and millions of funding for special projects for Quonset Point.
DownTown February 16, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Taxpayer dollars subsidize URI which strengthens that area. The new I-Way was near $1 billion in cost yet no tolls. The old Washington bridge has been rebuilt more times than I have fingers yet no tolls. Did they make residents in Smithfield and Cumberland and Lincoln pay for the construction of Rte-295? That was a HUGE project. Nope but we must pay our way for everything and pay for everyone else. According to a study by GolocalProv Central Falls gets $40,000,000 million dollars a year in state aid. $20 million for their schools which they pay nothing for and $20 million for the town itself. You know what Bristol gets from the state with nearly twice as many people? Less than $1 million a year outside of school aid which they are in the process of practically stripping us of. In a few months all we are going to hear about here is tax increases to make up for the lost state aid.
DownTown February 16, 2012 at 04:01 AM
The Sakonnet is nearly 60 years old was a poor design, poorly & cheaply built because it was a rush job when the original bridge was destroyed in Hurricane Carol. The original bridge could have been built the same way as a straight span over the water as could the Mt Hope also. So remember when you ride over these expensive bridges they could have been built and maintained MUCH cheaper except they are built to allow for shipping to Fall River and pleasure boating. Neither of those groups pay squat towards use of these bridges. The DOT never gets the money that is earmarked for it. That's a problem with the GA and the Governor who don't give the DOT the gas tax proceeds just as the lottery money doesn't go to the schools. The politicians here, lie to people, they steal your tax money and give it to someone else. The idea though that 2 bridges needs a board of directors and customer service reps plus toll takers watching the cards go by when they don't need a single one is ludicrous. Free road tolling was partly instituted rather than fully, so they could still have nepotism jobs there.
Bob Cosgrove February 16, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Joe we need to reform the state legislature if they continue to underfund the dot and we add two more bridges to their workload then even less maintinance will get done. This state has so much duplication of services it is ridiculous. People will say I am crazy but we need to get rid of half the state government. Get rid of the governer and legisiature elect 1 rep from each town who will propose new laws then have an annual referendum and let the poeple decied which laws get passed and which don't. No need for a governer to sign them. Get rid of the state police each town already has a police force and administer everything on a county level.
DownTown February 16, 2012 at 04:58 AM
The first paragraph should say 'when the Haffenreffer Brewery went bankrupt'
Bear401 February 16, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Kool-Aid? Really? Sounds like someone is still upset over the outcome of the last election. Good point Down Town about the lottery money. I thought I was the only one who remembers the reason the state gave for a lottery. They stole that money too just like they stole money out of the retirement fund from the employees who put it there so the state could give pensions upwards of 15K/yr to people who didn't contibute a dime to the system to get it. And let's not forget the "double dippers" who are taking two pensions out of there & only contibuted for one. Anyway why don't we also eliminate Coastal Resources Management too & put those duties in DEM? It's just another redundant agency created to give more politically connected cronies high paying jobs.
BOB I February 16, 2012 at 02:14 PM
bear you forgot the money we are still paying into e-911 that they diverting to the black hole. also how about the heating "donation" we are now paying, another shady deal
Phil Hadley February 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Ms. Raimondo pushed us very hard for reform pensions, now we have to push her to reform the General Fund, I want to see where everything goes, full disclosure, then we can make the correct judgements about the G.A. Bottom Line if you want to fix this state. This is just another problem of money going nowhere and people not being held accountable, I don't want to hear G.A. members saying I was not there then or residents saying well I'll just leave. Fix problems, my generation who are starting to move back here and starting families, have an education, looking for a better quality of life are sick of this, sick of the G.A. members in the papers getting arrested, sick of higher taxes, sick of horrible roads. I want to see a line by line item for the General Fund and know where and why we are moving money. That should be the philosophy of us residents, to make sure this General Fund gets fixed & more transparent. Ms. Raimondo it's time to address this head on like you did with pension reform. Now.
Jack February 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Is this another politician who runs unopposed ???? Wake up and vote for someone who actually thinks
Bob February 16, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Amen Jack.
Jasper February 16, 2012 at 07:22 PM
How about legislature that FORBIDS the Governors from balancing the budget on the backs of bridge tolls. If The MANY past Governors didn't rape the RITBA of its revenue we wouldn't be in this situation, make sense? Teh people of Bristol and Portsmouth need to get over themselves about tolls on the Mt Hope Bridge, stop killing the tourism that supports this Island by increasing tolls on one brisge. Also RIDOT is a terrible organization for of wasteful spending and too much upper management. Use some common sens people, RITBA has done a great job of maintaining the bridges, RIDOT has not and never will.
BOB I February 16, 2012 at 07:26 PM
swing by and see the new palace they are building them selves.
Jack Baillargeron February 16, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Well it is one way to bring back the ferry's at least ;-}. Lets face it, at 25cents for indivdual and 50cents for cars it was cheap.
DownTown February 16, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Which Governors have robbed RIBTA? They rob the DOT. If the gasoline tax all went to the DOT instead of where ever they send it the roads would be just fine. Wasteful spending like having a board of directors, toll takers that do nothing because if should all be automatic, customer service reps secretaries etc etc. That's overhead. RIBTA takes care of 2 bridges. The DOT has the Janestown and 600 others along with all the roads and they don't get the money that they should be getting from the state. A board of directors for 2 bridges. Yeah right.
Joe Sousa. February 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM
We need a complete over haul of the DOT. That should be another bill put in along with this one. The lawsuits caused by DOT cost us a whole lot of money. Why isn't the Gov, looking to reform this dysfunctional department ? Tax and Spend Chafee I must have lost my mind. This Governor couldn't find his behind with both hands tied behind his back The Missing Link
Caroline Evans February 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM
For one.. the quasi-governmental agencies are of doubtful utility... they are corrupt organizations that have neither the oversight given a government agency nor the oversight by shareholders of a truly private company. They combine the very worst features of both worlds.. .and evade the good ones. The DOT is a screwed up operation itself.... and these quasi-governmental agencies were created by lazy, corrupt legislatures/governors that tried to do an end run around their duty to the taxpayer/voter..which is to oversee and supervise our employees at the DOT. They did not want to inconvenience the Peter Principle cases they promoted beyond their ability to run things...nor did they want to tread too closely to the unions who so plainly paid them off to leave them alone. And so.. these feckless lowlife politicos dreamed up these quasi-governmental agencies.. that "just happened" to personally benefit the politicos and their golfing buddies. Take note of who works at these quasi-governmental agencies ... and you see parasites on the RI economy.... people who are of no real ability... who cannot cut it in real business and so sought refuge there after sewing kneepads into their suits or pantyhose offered flattery and pleasure (and bribes?) to politicos. The quasi-governmental organization is an organizational form that is the love-child born of a no-tell-motel tryst between communists and robber-barons.
David February 17, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Joe I AGREE with you for once. Nice job Rep Morrison!
5th Warder February 17, 2012 at 12:08 PM
This is more about Rep. Morrison keeping tolls off the Mt Hope Bridge than anything. If he were sincere, he's realize that the bridges that RITBA care for are in good shape, with ongoing maintenance, and the maintenance is paid for. As a quasi-public entity, they are less apt to be pushed around by the short-sighted, self-serving clowns on Smith Hill. On the other hand, DOT bridges are dangerous, collapsing, mismanaged disasters. Maintenance gets pushed off by the legislature to save money. Safety suffers as a result, and actual costs go up in the end. Morrison has the right idea, but backwards: take ALL the bridges away from DOT and put them into the hands of an organization that has an established record of knowing how to take care of them.

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