PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Signs alerting drivers of upcoming tolls were taken down from the Sakonnet River Bridge on Friday morning, just hours after Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the new state budget.
The highly controversial 10-cent toll is now a part of Rhode Island’s history. Instead, state lawmakers created a transportation infrastructure fund that will be fed by an increase to the state’s gasoline tax and higher vehicle fees.
“For the East Bay folks, it eliminated the need for a toll,” said House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. “An accomplishment that will serve an entire section of our state, that will keep that section of the east side of our state more competitive into the future.”
The transportation infrastructure fund will pay for the maintenance of the Sakonnet River Bridge, Mt. Hope Bridge, Jamestown Bridge, and the Pell Bridge.
“It’s a good day for all the residents in the state of Rhode Island as the four bridges will be adequately maintained, will have a revenue stream to adequately maintain them and keep them safe,” said Buddy Croft of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.
Mike Bowden, who owns a Tiverton boating business, told Eyewitness News he’s relieved the tolls have been eliminated from the Sakonnet River Bridge. Bowden said it wasn’t the 10-cent toll that posed a problem, but talk of higher tolls in the future.
“This is a big deal to us, we’ve been very nervous about where they would go with it,” he said.
The one-cent increase to the gas tax will go into effect July 1, 2015, and the rest of the changes will be implemented over the next five years.