Rhode Island Assembly passes bridge toll ban

| 7/8/2003

The Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation again this year outlawing tolls or fees on the Sakonnet River Bridge. It now heads to the governor for approval.

Built in the 1950s, about 40,000 vehicles cross the state Highway 24 bridge daily that connects Tiverton to Portsmouth, the Sakonnet Times reported recently. In need of repair, the state Transportation Department recommended paying for the work through tolls.

H5041, sponsored by Rep. Raymond Gallison Jr., D-Bristol, would specifically prohibit tolls or fees whether a new bridge is constructed or major repairs to the existing bridge take place.

The legislation would also require General Assembly approval for any transfer of the bridge to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

"As I said last year, when the Legislature adopted a ban on turning the Sakonnet Bridge into a toll bridge, I acknowledge that repairing or replacing the bridge is a costly and necessary project," said Gallison in a statement. "Like last year, I still maintain that there is no justifiable reason to charge a toll and there is every reason not to institute a toll because of the negative impact it could have on tourism and economic development for Aquidneck Island."

Gallison said the language in the bill to prohibit the bridge from being transferred to the Turnpike and Bridge Authority "is to ensure that the DOT doesn't try an end-around on this issue, absolving itself of responsibility for care and upkeep of the bridge. If such a transfer were to occur, there would be no way to prevent the Bridge Authority from imposing a toll.

"Keeping the bridge under the authority of the DOT will ensure that work on the bridge will come from funds allocated to that state department and not out of the pockets of motorists using the bridge."