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Residents Voice Anger Over Proposed Tolls

State officials told the crowd that fees on the Mount Hope or Sakonnet River bridges are unavoidable to maintain the spans.


Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Chairman David Darlington hadn't yet made it through the second slide of his presentation when the questions started.

East Bay and Aquidneck Island residents peppered Darlington and Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis with pointed questions and comments, most opposing proposed tolls on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges, throughout a forum last night at the Burnside Building on Hope Street in Bristol.

The response was not an unexpected development, Darlington said. Residents have come out in force at previous public hearings on the proposal that would bring tolls to the Mount Hope Bridge for the first time since 1998. The fees to cross the bridge — if the General Assembly approves proposals before it — would range from 52 cents to $3.25 each way.

Residents who live in the shadow of the bridge voiced concerns not only with the hit to their commuting costs, but to that of the local economies on both sides of the span should drivers seek alternate routes to avoid tolls. Darlington acknowledged the potential for "some attrition. There are definitely impacts," he said. "But most of the impacts go away in a short period of time."

But any hit — no matter how small it may be — is too much to sustain, according to Gail McGovern, owner of McGovern's Floor Coverings in Bristol. "If they're paying tolls to get to us, they'll go somewhere else," McGovern said. "We've been hanging on by the skin of our teeth. Now you're going to add tolls and strangle us a little more?"

Residents and local officials criticized — sometimes vehemently — the proposal to charge tolls one of the bridges, expressing anger over potential losses in economic development and real estate value, and perceived misuse of state funds.

Bristol Town Council Chairman Kenneth Marshal recommended the authority partner with the state Economic Development Corporation to conduct an economic study on the impact the tolls may have on both sides of the bridge.

"Seeing that the East Bay and Aquideneck Island is one of the largest economic generators and you haven't done a collaboration with EDC, I don't think you've done your due diligence," Marshal said. "It's disrespectful to the residents of East Bay."

Darlington, himself a businessman who also serves as chairman of the state Chamber of Commerse Coalition, said he understands the concerns, but the authority has little choice but to charge the tolls, he said. Revenue from the fees is the authority's only real source of income, and costs to maintain the Mount Hope Bridge and the Newport Pell Bridge approach $250 million a year, he noted. The authority's budget is $4.5 million short just to paint and make routine repairs of both bridges, he said. And if those repairs aren't constantly made, the bridge would deteriorate, forcing the state to impose weight restrictions or even eventually close the span.

"Our task is to maintain your asset. In order to do that, we need to spend a lot of money," Darlington told the crowd of about 40. "We can not let maintenance go. If the asset isn't taken care of, no one will be able to get over it and there will be no business."

Residents on the other side of the island have had to deal with similar issues for decades. The Newport Pell Bridge tolls have increased to $4 cash each way, a number set to increase to $5 this summer. E-Z pass rates will increase from their current 83 cents to $1.

"We owe it to the people who use the Pell Bridge to at least talk about sharing costs," he said.

The money to pay those costs won't be coming from the DOT, according to Lewis. The department is $3 billion short on maintenance costs over the next 10 years, the director said.

"I can't maintain the Sakonnet the day it opens. I don't have the money," Lewis said, showing a slide of the Wampanoug Trail bridge over Warren Avenue in East Providence, part of which is held up by wood timbers. "I'm not recommending this to anyone, but this is the reality. This is what we have all over the state. I need another $300 million a year."

Facing a deficit, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority voted earlier this year to increase the tolls on the Pell Bridge and explore reinstating tolls on Mount Hope. But that vote was made with the stipulation that the plan may be rescinded if an alternate source of revenue could be found. If approved by the General Assembly, that alternate source of revenue could be tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The legislation allows the transfer of the Sakonnet and Jamestown Bridges to RITBA. Tolls collected on the Pell and Sakonnet Bridges would be used for operating and maintenance costs and capital projects on all four bridges (Sakonnet, Pell, Mount Hope and Jamestown), as well as for other road and bridge projects throughout the East Bay. With the added revenue from Sakonnet, RITBA would not need to reinstate tolls on Mount Hope or raise the rates on the Pell Bridge.

Despite the DOT's and Turpike and Bridge's Authority's needs, local representitives have vowed to fight any fees on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet. State Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (Bristol, Portsmouth) and Rep. John G. Edwards (Tiverton, Portsmouth) have introduced bills banning tolls on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges, respectively, and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (Warren, Bristol, Tiverton) has introduced both bills in the Senate. All have introduced the bills in previous years, but say they are more concerned than ever about discussions the Turnpike and Bridge Authority has been having about creating new tolls.

In order for tolls to be established, the authority would need the General Assembly to pass enabling legislation, and the trio of legislators have said they would vehemently oppose any such bill.

Robert E June 09, 2012 at 02:39 PM
You are correct Larry the world does not owe us a bridge the state owes us a bridge. From the time this bridge was built we have been paying taxes to the state to maintain it and they have not upheld their part of this agreement. Instead of using our money for maintence like they were supposed to they have been giving our money to millionare baseball players to play video games. The bridge need to be replaced due to the malfeasance of the DOT and we should not have to pay twice.
walter peabody June 11, 2012 at 03:40 PM
27000 people cross the pell bridge every day at a buck a piece to keep it simple . that’s just under 10 mil a year . Over 43 years that’s 430 mil .The bridge only cost 54 mil to build .which is a great for ribta. Being as it’s the only toll road in Rhode island you would think that the funds from that toll would only be allocated to that road , ah but it isn’t . thank you Rhode island turnpike and bridge authority for maintaining our beautiful bridge . I mean it’s a nice smooth ride if you like off roading . The toll is a cash cow with out a doubt . why do you think they want to toll the new bridge ? The state is broke . There’s about 60,000 of us on the island and we all use the bridges one way or another . The tolls are a horrible idea because the revenue isn’t going to be used to maintain the roadway where the toll is it will pay for all the other roadways that are in need of major repair across the state in the RIBTA care cause they are doing such a great job already . Seeing as I only use the bridge once in a while I don’t really care about the cost to me personally . But our bread and milk and everything else which crosses that bridge will cost us more than it already does . that’s everything for everyone . Not to mention the business we will lose .And if you don’t live around here well then you can just pay the 4 bucks each way and pound sand because ribta and your reps don’t care about you .
Jim L June 11, 2012 at 04:21 PM
tHE POINT IS, THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE(opps sorry) to not use the newport bridge, residents of Tiverton LC portsmouth and otherswill have no choice , it is a tax directed at 5 towns in newport county, no where else in the state will money be raised to maintain this bridge, how much will this effect school sports? frieght? just going to go see mom? I don't know how class action works but i think it may be the way to go, Newport bridge has a much larger tourist number than we fo, and it also has nowhere near the number of daily commuters we do, just insane, will newport county get more school aid, or property tax relief from this, Don't bet on it
Chris St Peter June 11, 2012 at 04:44 PM
I Travel Over The Sakonnet River Bridge 5 Days A Week. If They Put A Toll On That Briedge, I'll Pull A Dukes Of Hazard And Build A Ramp On One Side Of The River And Just Jump Accross. YEEEHAWWW!!!!
Ralph Doliber June 17, 2012 at 10:33 PM
My GAWD Larry, are you even paying ATTENTION?! you said "was referring to the fact that you seem to believe that being spawned by a sailor is equal to actually being a sailor. It's not, because thinking that is just sad." WHEN did I say that? hmmm, Larry? or even imply it? I was talking about a BRIDGE and you go ALL 'ohhhh, I was in the navy blah blah blah blah so don't TELL me about a bridge blah blah blah' And I gave you some INFO as to why I might know about the BRIDGE Larry BRIDGE..say it slow B..R..I..D..G..E..BRIDGE! My old man ALSO worked in local shipyards after retirement, am I ALLOWED to speak of that? He drove a Chevy Impala, CAN I speak of CARS, Larry? Okay, Larry, PLEASE give your reply some THOUGHT, good sir!
Dan D June 18, 2012 at 02:02 PM
we should rebuild Stonebridge and charge our OWN tolls. (free for residents, out of County people pay $2, which is $2 cheaper than the others, which in turn would drive more traffic through stonebridge and make the businesses on Main road mucho dinero)
Ralph Doliber June 19, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Thank You, Jack. I was going on memory, as well. I was about 4 yrs old and remember my parents talking about it. I came close!
Ralph Doliber June 19, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Hey Larry! you say "You should pay for the work others do on your behalf. If you are able to but don't, some might think of you as a leach who thinks the world owes him a bridge. The world does not owe you a bridge, Ralph." Yup, you got me..my whole LIFE has been a QUEST to get a FREE bridge from the WORLD! Larry? Quit being an ASS! Fair is FAIR, and having the ONLY two TOLL bridges right here is UNFAIR!
Jack June 25, 2012 at 09:12 PM
You can choose....there is no toll on the Mt Hope and there are roads to take you around to use it.....so if you CHOSE to use the bridge then pay for the choice you made.......I do like Mr Borges proposed tolling scale, it is actually very fair to all
TAMORI June 26, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Ralph and Larry, There are some good comments and discussion on this thread. For some reason the two of you continue to squabble about irrelevant things like who severed in the military and who didn’t. That doesn’t have anything to do with tolls on our bridges. If you must continue your argument do us all a favor and take it to private message or email.
Ralph Doliber June 26, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Oh, I'm withya on that, TAMORI! BUT, please read ALL the comments from start to finish and you will see that my "squabbles" are replies to the False words Mr Larry was putting in my mouth. That said, my sincere apologies to any/all persons traumatized by that crap AND I promise that as far as Mr Larry goes I will/have drop the whole thang! PEACE
Ralph Doliber June 26, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Read them yet? On the discussion of tolls/bridges I presented what I remembered from back then and THEN Mr Larry comes-back with 'ohhhhhhhh I was in the Navy you can't tell me anything' CRAP In none of my re-buttals do I SAY or IMPLY I was in the service! And yes, it ticked me off to read his delusions. That said~ I then let myself go wayyyyyyyyyyyyy to FAR with Mr Larry. Sincerely Sorry to All!
Dan D June 26, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Jack: how do those of us in Tiverton "choose" how do people who want to go from Portsmouth to Tiverton, or LC "choose" - choose to drive 30 miles around through Mass? No, there is no "choice" for a lot of people.
Dan D June 26, 2012 at 04:05 AM
the stupid military argument in the middle of this basically killed any real conversation that could have taken place. Ridiculous.
Ralph Doliber June 26, 2012 at 04:30 AM
@ Dan D, Bullshite! What, because I stood-up for myself towards a man lying about me you were PREVENTED from commenting on the bridge?? ANY comment is EASILY ignored, why did you read them? I apologized for the lack of restraint regarding Mr Larry and NOW you're gonna pile-on and give me crap?! 3rdx~ My Sincere Apologies to Any and All Readers/Commenters! Seriously PEACE (you too Dan D!)
Ralph Doliber June 26, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Okey Dokey Dan D! Let the "real conversation" resume! ;o)_..
Dan D June 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM
No, I said my piece because you blamed the whole thing on him, said you were done, and posted twice about it, now you respond to me THREE times. Im done, wont respond to you again. Geez louise.
Ralph Doliber June 27, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I think NOT Dan D! It was OVER until you just had to leave a brain-fart of a comment for me. Done and Done THEN ya had to start chirping ..? I did NOT blame anybody. I merely presented the FACTS of what transpired. And I certainly will not take any BULL from you, good sir! After I apologized I THOUGHT of a little more to add. Beacuse you can't add to a posted comment I had to use "another" comment box. SO, it was over.... BUT... nOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Dan D, you just HAD to flap your gums at me when it was done and OVER! Why did you wait so long to say something? As SOON as someone ELSE made a valid point about it you decided to KEEP it going. As I felt you did NOT take the time to COMPREHEND exactly what was said betwixt myself and Mr Larry I let YOU know about it and thought it courteous to again relay that I really was sorry about DRAGGING it out. Hmmm...aren't you doing what you bitched at me for?!! Now, after spewing erroneous dribble at me you say 'ooooh, I won't respond' Passive Aggresive MUCH??
TAMORI June 27, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I have long wondered why boaters in this state get off without taxation. Geez that would be a lot of revenue. Is that not a tax that would go to the DOT…and could thereby help pay for the bridges? This article (from 2011) explains that if boating taxes returned to RI that it would be a detriment to our economy. http://www.tradeonlytoday.com/home/509294-rhode-island-debates-lifting-boat-tax-exemption Can Newport County institute a boat tax on its own?
Jim L June 27, 2012 at 03:13 PM
should get our state reps to put in the bill to tax boats, but only those without newport county addresses
Matt Borges June 27, 2012 at 03:59 PM
http://patch.com/A-v4xb  Check out what I wrote about the tolls and how it could really diminish the quality of the Sunset League.  The oldest living amateur league in the country.
TAMORI June 27, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Funny, Larry. What kind of boat you own? But that thing of beauty gibberish is of a matter of opinion. Is that half-sunken boat in Blue Bill Cove adding beauty to the waterscape? Many motorcyclists think they add beauty and provide a service to the community with their loud exhaust systems. Non-boat owners are also job creators, AND subsidize facilities used by ONLY boaters - pump out stations, harbor master/patrol, aids to navigation, draw bridges, etc. This is all kind of off topic. I’m just saying that if boaters paid their fair share in various taxes and tolls along the waterfront that there would be a lot more money in our coffers that could be used for bridge maintenance.
TAMORI June 27, 2012 at 07:11 PM
I saw that Matt. Good point. It's sad but true. I say we let...correction "make" Larry and the rest of his boating friends fund the Sunset League.
John ("Anything But Sue") June 27, 2012 at 07:40 PM
We had a boat tax years ago. Even visitors in their big mega Yachts were taxed just to visit Newport. The "Boat Taxes" were eliminated in the hopes that the boat BUILDING Businesses in Rhode Island would survive. They did survive and now we have flourishing business building Yachts again....even bigger yachts than before. Big Custom boats are Big Bucks. The big cruise ships used to come to Newport. It wouldn't be uncommon to see Five ships at a time anchored off Newport. Then Newport slapped a TAX on the cruise ships. Now we only see a ship every now and then. TAXES never do any good.
John ("Anything But Sue") June 27, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Anybody wonder why Sen. John Kerry (D) MA) keeps his $7 Million Yacht in Rhode Island. ....RI doesn't have TAXES on Yachts. I support Sen.John Kerry for his business acumen. Beyond that.....?? He's a LIMO Liberal.
John ("Anything But Sue") June 27, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Larry: I think you are remiss: John Kerry served in Viet Nam and recieved 3 Purple Hearts in three months before he was transfered OUT of Viet Nam due to security raesons. BTW: I have SEEN John Kerrys Yacht (Isabel) at Hinkleys Yacht Yard in Portsmouth. I never thought the Yacht was worth 7 Million..(More like 1.5 million)..max. But I just followed the MEDIA Reports. The Media never lies.
OldTownie June 28, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Don't forget his Silver Star and Bronze Star.
Herb Weiss August 13, 2012 at 02:32 AM
If the RIBTA and the State go ahead with the toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge, We the people of Aquidneck Island and Newport County should file suit against the State Of Rhode Island and seek an immediate court injunction to stop the toll for Unfair taxes and discrimination. I feel this toll is uncontitutional and illegal based on southern Rhode Island residents paying a higher tax rate than central and northern Rhode Island communities.
Ralph Doliber August 13, 2012 at 05:02 AM
Hey Herb, not certain of that options viability BUT great idea! If it is possible small donations by a lot of us could cover legal expenses. Any attorneys out there who could shine a little legality light on Herb's idea?
Govstench September 01, 2012 at 12:25 AM
We all remember all of those Transportation Bonds that voters kept approving on each election cycle, right? Well, guess what? The dummies at DOT were playing the taxpayers for chumps - approve a bond so we can pay the debt service on the others you approved. I stopped voting for those damn things over a decade ago and urged my friends to do likewise. Now you have a debt bill that sucking out approximately half of the DOT budget. No wonder they have no money. They are paying the bank. What fools these people are.

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