Newport This Week

Pell Commuters Beware

To the Editor:

The Pell Bridge’s commuter rate of 80-85 percent makes it a commuter bridge like the Sakonnet. Since 1998, when tolls on the Mt. Hope were removed and the bridge was transferred to RITBA, 30 percent of the revenue collected through Pell tolls has gone to maintain and repair the Mt. Hope. Twenty-five cents out of 83 cents a Pell commuter pays is diverted to the maintenance of the Mt. Hope.

Rep. Peter Martin, who staunchly worked to protect Pell commuters, and Sen. Paiva Weed, who worked behind the scenes in the Senate, were able to get Sen. DiPalma to rework his Senate infrastructure bill so that the Mt. Hope will transfer back to the state, while RITBA would retain ownership of the Pell and Jamestown bridges. This is the fair and correct way to move forward on these bills.

Rep. Edwards now wants RITBA to continue to own the Mt. Hope Bridge with the State helping to pay for the maintenance. The Mt. Hope will need $40 million in repairs over the next ten years. That is a lot of money coming from the infrastructure revenue. As soon as the state cannot meet this obligation, the burden will fall back on the Pell commuters with toll increases. Mr. Edwards, so what you are saying is that either your bill cannot cover the maintenance of the Mt. Hope or you need tolls to maintain these island bridges. If tolls are the source of revenue, then additional tolls should be placed elsewhere, like the Mt. Hope, not just the Pell.

It’s time to get the Mt. Hope off the backs of Pell commuters and let it either be funded by the state as in the Senate infrastructure bill, or if the state can’t handle it, then a toll should be installed on the Sakonnet or Mt. Hope. That would be fair to all. To the anti-toll chairman, don’t say that this burdens tourism. You quoted that an engineers study concluded there would be a 20 percent reduction in tourism if the Sakonnet is tolled. I guess that engineering firm never checked the Pell Bridge on any weekend day in the summer when the traffic is backed up to the center span for most of the day.

If you are a Pell commuter and are concerned about this injustice, then you should contact Rep. Peter Martin, Sen. Paiva Weed and Sen. DiPalma with your support. Also, contact Rep. Abney to find out where he stands on this, as he was a sponsor of the House bill. Mike Shepherd


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