Since 1998, Rhode Islaners — especially those on the East Bay — have had the option to get onto Aquidneck Island without paying the tolls the Newport Bridge charges. The free ride could soon be coming to an end and crossing onto and off the island may soon cost drivers money regardless of the route they take.
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority hopes so. The authority — which already approved raising rates on the Newport Pell Bridge — has proposed adding fees to the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges. The tolls would range from 52 cents to $3.25 each way. The Newport bridge is scheduled to increase from $4 to $5 for cash-paying drivers. Those using an E-Z pass pay less than $1.
to the plan and adding the fees, vowing to fight the proposal in the General Assembly.
Tonight, residents can hear the rationale for the toll proposal and voice their concerns. Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr. (Bristol, Portsmouth) has scheduled a meeting for tonight with Michael Lewis, Department of Transportation director, and David Darlington, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Burniside Building, next to Town Hall, 10 Court St.,Bristol.
Gallison and Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Tiverton, Portsmouth) have introduced bills banning tolls on the Mount Hope and Sakonnet River bridges, respectively, and Sen. Walter S. Felag Jr. (D-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.
“We’ve said time and time again that the Turnpike and Bridge Authority isn’t going to hold the people of the East Bay and Aquidneck Island hostage. If they try to put in these tolls, we will fight them tooth and nail on behalf of our constituents,” Gallison has said.
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.