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Imagine No Toll on the Pell Bridge

Innovative ideas that to do not add taxes or fees and do not cut services.

Imagine Newport….without a toll on the Pell Bridge……

On Wednesday evening, Feb. 13, 2013, scores of East Bay residents testified to the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee on Senate Bill 20 by Senator Walter Felag and Senate Bill 242 by Senator Lou DiPalma.  

Senate Bill 20 would repeal Article 20 of the 2013 Rhode Island State Budget which created the East Bay Infrastructure and authorized the transfer of the Sakonnet and Jamestown Bridges to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

Senate Bill 242 proposed alternative legislation to create a bridge maintenance trust fund and alternative funding proposals instead of a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

There was plenty of testimony about how the proposed toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge would negatively affect individuals, small businesses, and the area economy.

Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed attended the hearings as well and challenged the folks who gave testimony on how to maintain the four bridges to Aquidneck Island without having a toll increase on the Pell Bridge.

A number of anti-toll advocates met with her on January 15th of this year to discuss this very topic.  They shared information on how the proposed toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge would have many negative economic impacts in the East Bay area.  She expressed her concern about the possibility of an increase on the toll on the Pell Bridge if a toll did not go on the Sakonnet River Bridge.  Her concern is real and she must protect her constituents. 

One of the anti-toll advocates went as far to suggest a solution without any toll on the Pell Bridge.  It sounds far-fetched, but it is within the realm of possibilities.

Based on figures provided by RIDOT and RITBA, the four bridges to Aquidneck Island would require funding of about $38 million a year each year for the next ten years.  This would include enough funds for bridge maintenance, debt service and setting aside funds for future capital improvements.

The Rhode Island State Budget is roughly $8 billion dollars.  One half of one percent of this figure is $40 million dollars.  Is there a way to find $38 million dollars a year within an $8 billion dollar annual state budget?  There may be.

One way would be to consider incorporating private sector business best practices into the state budgeting and money management practices.  The ISO standards come to mind. 

The State could examine the way the U.S. Army responded to sizable budget cuts in the early 1990’s as a result of the “peace dividend” after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.  The U.S. Army implemented two programs – the Army Community of Excellence (ACOE) program and Total Quality Management (TQM) to reduce costs and operate with reduced budgets.  They implemented these programs with success and responded to budget cuts greater than five percent.

Another possibility is to incorporate practices similar to the Inspector General system in the U.S. Army.  The U.S. Army Inspectors General are charged with looking at systemic problems and recommending solutions to fix these problems.  Some of the areas that the Inspectors General investigate is systemic spending problems and looking at areas where there is fraud, waste and abuse.

A fourth possibility is to have a dialog with UPS – “the Logistics People.”  UPS developed internal programs to become more efficient and more profitable.  This program was successful and so much so, they added it as an adjunct business and have offered their methodologies to any other business that wants to save time and money.  Why not give them a try?  At least have a discussion with them.

It certainly seems possible that implementation of any of these four ideas could save the State one half of one percent of the State Budget.  If this happens, then the State could identify $38 million dollars a year to dedicate to RIDOT and RITBA.

Then they would be able to maintain the four bridges, take care of debt service, set aside funds for future capital improvements and do it without a toll on the Pell Bridge.

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Concerned Resident February 25, 2013 at 09:17 PM
stibro, guessing you’re saying that if the sakonnet had a toll all along all would be ok, wow. through your thriftiness in apparently owning 4 vehicles while deciding to pay the ever increasing price for gas and the soon to be sakonnet bridge out of state toll to get to work and for dinner or drinks or other entertainment is a little confusing to me but who am I to judge. In the end I will tell you in advance that I and many other RI residents’ thank you in advance for paying a higher (out of state) toll ensuring that the bridge is well maintained for you to get to work and possible dinner or drinks or other entertainment.
Robert Oliveira February 25, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Concerned, If there were a way to have that as a compromise, I'm not saying I would sign on but it would be something to think about. However, you can't get there from here. The tolls have to go before the discussion or there will be no discussion. This is why all these bills are a waste of time since they're dead in the House. Even if one survived, it will get vetoed and based on the number of reps from the cities, there is no chance to override that veto. (In this scenario, the entire House Leadership takes off for a week leaving no instructions and finds out when they return that one of the bills wormed through Committee.)
Still Broke February 26, 2013 at 02:14 PM
CR... I have 4 transponders. Not 4 cars. One for me, one for my spouse, one for my child who travels the MassPike to get to a state college and one on my father's car. He lives near Boston and lost his pension after spending his entire career with a company that went bankrupt and out of business soon after he retired. The least I can do for him is pay for his transponder after all he did for me. Please don't be confused. I can help my child and my father precisely because I AM thrifty.
Concerned Resident February 26, 2013 at 03:55 PM
stilbro, Ok so you have 4 transponders covering your household of 3 vehicles and 1 for your dad. I’m not confused and really none of my business who you assist. although I commend you for helping out your dad I’m not sure why you feel the need to tell his unfortunate story on this blog. what is my business is when people want and expect me to pay their way. also, I’m guessing that you are also protesting the tolls on the mass pike and whatever tolls your dad is accessing – paying or is tolls ok in mass and not ri??? dialog such as this is great as it exposes much including the real intent of the few……..I hope you’re reading what you write.
Herb Weiss March 10, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Stanley works for the ritba...

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