Tolls approved for Sakonnet River Bridge in Rhode Island

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 4/25/2013

A recently completed bridge that carries Rhode Island Route 138 over the Sakonnet River will be converted into a toll bridge this summer. The Federal Highway Administration authorized tolls in response to a revised environmental plan submitted by the state DOT and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Truck tolls will amount to $2 per axle, or $1.88 with a Rhode Island-issued E-ZPass. The alternative to E-ZPass is a system that will photograph license plates and send invoices to vehicle owners. Cash will not be an option on the bridge.

According to the turnpike agency, the construction of an all-electronic toll collection site on the Sakonnet is estimated at $2.3 million.

The four-lane bridge, which carries Rhode Island Route 24 between Portsmouth and Tiverton, opened in 2012, replacing an older structure that carried an 18-ton weight limit for trucks.

A series of toll increases is already scheduled to begin in 2016. After that, toll rates will rise with inflation, or approximately 2.5 percent per year.

A recent state law transferred control of the four-lane Sakonnet River Bridge and Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge to the turnpike authority, doubling the number of bridges the agency maintains. The agency also operates the Mount Hope Bridge and the tolled Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge. Both of those bridges carry Rhode Island Route 138.

Officials say tolling the Sakonnet River Bridge will help pay down agency debts and finance capital improvements on the other facilities.

As part of the agreement, the turnpike agency must report traffic numbers to the Federal Highway Administration for five years, estimate the number of vehicles that divert to toll-free alternative routes, and provide a report on how toll rates affect low-income and minority communities.

A recent vote by the turnpike agency’s board of directors also calls for future annual toll increases on the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge starting in 2020.

See related story:
Rhode Island removes weight limit over Pocasset, proposes tolls on Sakonnet

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