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Bills Would Block Sakonnet Tolls, Create Infrastructure Fund

A group of local legislators have teamed up on a pair of bills that would create a transportation infrastructure fund at the same time tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge would be eliminated.

The bills, submitted this week, would create a transportation infrastructure fund by shaving a portion of the state's overall transportation fund and diverting it into the new fund, among other sources.

By 2020, the fund would absorb all gas taxes. In the short term, the fund would get money from a 5 percent surcharge in Department of Motor Vehicle Fees starting in 2015 but would be phased out by 2020.

Along with being reserved for the maintenance of state roads and bridges, the legislation would transfer authority of the Sakonnet River Bridge and Jamestown Bridge from the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority to the state under the auspices of a new authority in the state Department of Transportation. That authority would only be able to collect tolls on the Claiborne Pell Bridge.

The bills asks the DOT to prepare and deliver a report by Dec. 31 of this year "setting forth a plan to accomplish the consolidations, acquisition and implementation of this transfer of the Rhode Island turnpike and bridge authority to the Department of Transportation," the House bill states.

Effective July 1 of 2014, the title of the Sakonnet River Bridge would be transferred to the DOT and "any authority to collect tolls on said bridge shall be deemed revoked and voided, and no tolls shall be collected on said bridge without express authorization by the General Assembly."

The lead sponsors of the bill are by Rep. John Edwards and Sen. Louis DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton).

“Our transportation infrastructure needs to be a priority of the entire state and needs the entire state’s support," DiPalma told the Jamestown Press. "We can do this. We must have the resolve to seize this opportunity and address the challenge once and for all. The time to act is now.”

A copy of the House bill is here: http://status.rilin.state.ri.us/day_introduced.aspx?chamber=H&date=2/12/2014

The Senate bill is here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText14/SenateText14/S2335.pdf

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