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Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Exploring Reinstatement of Mt. Hope Bridge Tolls

The board plans to hold public meetings in October to seek public input about re-tolling Mount Hope Bridge for toll parity on Aquidneck Island

On Wednesday, the board of directors of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) discussed the need to increase tolls on the Newport Pell Bridge to keep up with maintenance on both Pell and Mount Hope Bridges.

“In 2009, RITBA held numerous public meetings to discuss the future of tolling on the Newport Pell and Mount Hope Bridges as well as to discuss the revenue and maintenance needs of both bridges,” said Chairman David A. Darlington, in a release .  “Keeping the bridges safe is our highest priority and their regular maintenance is costly.  By adopting a predictable and regular toll schedule, we ensure that we meet our obligation to provide sufficient revenue to support the operations, maintenance and capital improvement requirements of both the Newport Pell and Mount Hope Bridges.”

According to the release, the board heard presentations by RITBA’s financial and traffic engineering consultants, First Southwest and Jacobs.  Chairman Darlington stated that the board would consider all the information presented and deferred a vote to a later board meeting.

One of the scenarios discussed was reinstating tolling on the Mount Hope Bridge.  Darlington said that the board has a responsibility to look at all fair options, and stressed that the board would take absolutely no action on re-tolling with first seeking input from the public. 

“We want to schedule public meetings, as we said we would do, to gather public input about re-tolling the Mount Hope Bridge and to discuss the formal traffic-and-revenue study.  If we reach the conclusion that re-tolling Mount Hope is a fair and logical solution, we will then propose draft legislation to the General Assembly for their consideration.”

RITBA does not receive state or federal monies.  All maintenance on the Newport Pell and Mount Hope Bridges is funded by toll revenue.  The September 8, 2009 toll increase was the first toll increase in the 43-year history of the bridge.  The RITBA board increased the tolls after two years of public discussion and formal study.  At that time, the board also voted to conduct a toll review every three years and to undertake a formal study of the reinstitution of tolls on the Mt Hope Bridge.

“We’re responsible for maintaining two bridges on one toll revenue stream,” said Darlington.  “If reinstituting tolling on the Mount Hope Bridge were to become a reality, we can look at adjusting the Newport Pell Bridge toll rates.  Tolling was discontinued on Mount Hope because the cost of collecting the tolls offset the revenue.  That’s no longer a concern because we have the option now of all-electronic tolling.”

Additionally, the board discussed the feasibility of implementing open road tolling (ORT) on the Newport Pell Bridge, as discussed at its March 2011 meeting. ORT is an electronic toll collection system that permits motorists to drive through toll plazas without stopping to pay an attendant.  Cameras mounted on the toll plaza take photos of license plates, and motorists who today pay by cash would instead receive invoices in the mail for their outstanding tolls.  Holders of E-ZPass transponders would notice no change except for the elimination of gates on the Newport Pell Bridge.

“We know the public supports open-road tolling because it reduces lines at the toll plaza and is more convenient,” said Darlington.  “In order to remove the gates, we would need to widen and reduce the number of toll lanes.”

The board voted to issue an RFP for ORT vendors and to consider public/private partnerships for the installation and collection of outstanding tolls.

Mr. B September 15, 2011 at 11:44 AM
“We know the public supports open-road tolling because it reduces lines at the toll plaza and is more convenient,” said Darlington Really? I am not aware of anyone who is in support of the tolls on either bridge. What you have done is unfairly distributed the so called cost of maintenance on the shoulders of those who's livlihood is dependant upon crossing these bridges. Furthermore Newport is a major tourist attraction. When folks visit Rhode Island we greet them by asking them to display their wallet with a heafty toll? Where are the leaders in this state? It is time for the state to make money from investments with the money that they already have. Stop the greed. You are taxing & tolling the middle class out of existence. If you need any suggestions with regard to making cuts in order to meet your maintenance needs, just ask the public. We will be happy to let you know where to make them : )
Susan September 15, 2011 at 12:41 PM
I hope that they would consider a toll on the CT/RI border on Rte. 95. I pay tolls to go to NY, NJ, Maine, MD, etc., but these residents come to RI free. It makes more sense to collect tolls from non- RI residents, rather than burden Rhode Islanders as we travel through our own state and over our bridges.
H September 15, 2011 at 01:59 PM
absurb idea! I do not have enough money to daily spend for me to cross the bridge to go to my minimum wage job-please help!
Marjorie McBride September 15, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Now you do know someone who is in favor of a small toll on the Mount Hope Bridge. For years we lived with tolls & toll collectors that helped people in need on the bridge. Once the tolls were removed and the Sakonnet Bridge was closed for a week the traffic congestion on both Rt 114 and Rt 136 tripled. Anyone who drives in Bristol from 3pm to 6pm knows just how hard it is to get from Bristol to Warren, it's the longest part of the trip if you are heading to Providence! Most of that traffic does not come from people who live in this town or service businesses here. We have all the trucks too. It has simply become easier for people to go through Bristol rather than cross the Sakonnet and Braga Bridges. We have added extra stoplights on Metacom to control traffic since the tolls were removed. Please count me as one who is willing to pay a toll to regain control of our traffic.
Mr. B September 15, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Marjorie, are you trying to suggest that by creating a toll / introducing another cost to the already burdened tax payer is going to resolve traffic control issues ? Are you really a Marjorie or someone who is maybe trying to sell us all a little propaganda?
Mike M September 16, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Adding a toll would ADD to traffic, because people must stop to pay it? There is no way it would significantly aleviate traffic. While some may go around and take the Braga/Sakonnet Bridge, most will continue to use Mt Hope Bridge, and there is so much traffic because of increasing population and RWU, not because tolls were removed!
DownTown September 16, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Barrington, Warren and Bristol are brutal coming from Providence at the end of the day. Far worse than traffic coming over the bridge. When the Braga wasn't being painted etc I would go around through Fall River and get home faster than through Bristol County. In the summer the bridge is one lane all day for the annual bridge rebuild. What is it with that? They do it no matter what shape the bridge is in. It's hard to believe it needs to be done annually. I'd wager there are huge kick backs involved with RIBTA contractors.
Ellie Pickering September 16, 2011 at 08:56 PM
I don,t want to pay anything.I paid it for many years and supposedly it was stopped because there was enoough money for upkeep. Tax people coming into and out of other states on the other bridges and roadways such as Sakonnet Bridge or from CT.Route 114 is already a traffic nightmare. Tolls will only make it even slower.
Mr. B September 16, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Rhode Island is the second most densely populated state in the country. Traffic congestion will always be an issue. Paying a toll will not resolve congestion. It only serves to line the pockets of the greedy with more of the (burdened) tax payers money. Business will suffer with this continued baloney. We need leaders in this state !

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