PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island lawmakers were hearing legislation Tuesday aimed at eventually eliminating the controversial toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
Drivers are currently paying ten cents to cross the Sakonnet River on Route 24, but the toll is scheduled to increase on April 1.
However, one bill being considered at the State House Tuesday would push that date back to July 1 to give lawmakers more time to come up with potential alternatives to the toll.
David Darlington, the Chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, says the delay would hurt the agency’s ability to pay for ongoing bridge maintenance projects.
“We can’t continue to survive with these delays,” Darlington told Eyewitness News Tuesday. “We have bills that have to be paid. There’s a $40 million-plus project going on now. We’ve issued bond anticipation notes in order to pay for that. Those notes are now starting to run short.”
Darlington says the agency may be unable to issue new bonds while the bridge toll issue remains undecided.
“If you want to borrow money through bonds, you have to be able to show how you’re going to pay it back when you borrow it. You can’t say, ‘Well somebody’s going to pay me for the next three months so I’ll have enough money then, but we’re not sure how we’re going to pay you after that.’ We have to have a plan in place that’s going to do that.”
The Finance Committees of both the Rhode Island Senate and House of Representatives were hearing legislation on the proposed delay.