Truckers and others will soon be responsible for paying a dime to access the Sakonnet River Bridge. The bridge initially opened for traffic last fall but the official opening doesn’t occur until mid-August.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed into law a bill to authorize the toll plan on the bridge connecting Portsmouth to Tiverton starting Aug. 19. The four-lane bridge on state Route 24 replaced an older structure that carried an 18-ton weight limit.
House and Senate lawmakers approved the bill after supporters explained that federal rules require tolls to already be in place before construction is wrapped up. A released statement says they simply want to make sure the door remains open to charging users in the future as they work on “an alternative funding plan in the next several months.”
Previously H6329, the rule caps the toll amount at 10 cents per vehicle until April 1, 2014. The initial toll rate is expected to cover the nearly $1 million a year in operating costs.
The new law delays for one year higher tolls that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority announced this spring. A discounted 75-cent toll is planned for motorists residing in the state with E-ZPass. Commuters without E-ZPass would pay $5.25. Truckers would pay $2 per axle, or $1.88 with a state-issued E-ZPass.
In addition, the new law reverses a rule included in the state budget bill passed late last month that prohibited the Turnpike and Bridge Authority from increasing tolls on the Pell Bridge, also known as the Newport Bridge.
Authority officials said the ability to charge higher tolls on the state Route 138 crossing is necessary to fulfill promises made to bondholders.
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