August 14, 2009

The Toll Plan Continues Apace

Justin Katz

This progression was in plain view when Rhode Island began sidling toward transponder-based tolls:

The authority has also begun planning what could lead to reinstituting tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge, which is now free, and eventually impose tolls on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, which is under construction. The authority has commissioned a study that Chairman David A. Darlington said will look at tolls on all three bridges and various combinations of the three.

The board said it expects to raise tolls regularly, perhaps every three years, depending on its repair and maintenance expenses. The increases would be based on the Consumer Price Index, on an index of construction costs, or other inflation indicators.

With each new toll booth, more Rhode Islanders will bite the bullet and include a toll-paying device as another cost of daily life. With each new transponder, and with each Rhode Islander thus moved one step further from actually handing a piece of currency over for the ability to use a particular piece of public infrastructure, each new toll will be easier to implement and each increase politically easier to accomplish. (And let's not forget that residents' movement will become that much easier to track.)

In my view, this is nothing other than an incremental duplication of taxes that we already pay.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

It'll be interesting to see how much property values decline on Aquidneck Island when all three accesses are tolled (this is RI - it's not a question of "if" but "when").

Who will want to live on the island when every trip - including commuting to work off-island - will incur tolls to and fro?

What business (seeking to serve not just local patrons) will want to locate on Aquidneck Island?

I'm SO glad that I'm leaving this "nickel and dime you" state!

Posted by: Tom W at August 14, 2009 8:52 PM

Couldn't agree more. This is just a means to condition us to accept automatic fees without any thought. At least with the old tokens, one could realize that there was something tangible being spent. I fully expect them to do it to all the other bridges, once they've sufficiently conditioned us.

I drive over the Newport Bridge every weekday, and used to use tokens a lot. Since they were phased out, I've paid cash, mainly because I was a little leery of EZ-Pass, and the cost difference wasn't that significant. However, doubling the cost to $4.00 is probably my boiling point, so instead of getting their $2.00 a trip from me, they can have the satisfaction of only getting $0.83 cents instead. There's no way in heck I'm paying $4.00 to cross that. It's not like it's the Brooklyn Bridge or something.

Posted by: Will at August 15, 2009 12:35 AM

Tom W

I don't know where you'll be going that guaranteed won't have recourse to this sort of 'highway robbery'.

What else can the GA do? They have soaked up the lion's share of tax revenues for various social programs and outsized benefits packages for state workers. They need a whole new tax system on another track. Insult to injury would be if any of those fees found their way into the General(ly Misused) Fund.

Posted by: chuckR at August 15, 2009 12:27 PM

>They need a whole new tax system on another track. Insult to injury would be if any of those fees found their way into the General(ly Misused) Fund.

You mean like the gas tax and 911 fee?

Would you expect anything else from the kleptomaniac Democrats (but I repeat myself) who inhabit the General Assembly?

(BTW, I'm moving to state income tax-free Florida. Better weather. Lower taxes. Pro-business and therefore pro private-sector worker. What's not to like?)

Posted by: Tom W at August 15, 2009 1:53 PM

I have lived in this state for a long time and recognize the increased activity and population swell on the roads, in shopping areas, in day to day life. It is not an in state population growth or an undocumented worker influx. The state's governors and legislators at the behest of private interests have pushed hard over the years for increased tourism. It may be that this would have happened without state government assistance. Thats not my point. Many more vehicles drive over the bridges and roads. Many of those vehicles are out of state. To me, it would be remiss of our "leaders" ( such as they are) to continue to tax only the residents of the state for the upkeep of these public roads and bridges. (Hell, If I were Marc, I'd want Yankee fans to be paying for my bridge upkeep)
As for the insidious use of the transponder- Do you have a problem with being on candid camera every time you go into a private sector store, parking lot, sidewalk?

Posted by: David at August 15, 2009 5:56 PM

I am with Justin on transponders.I do not want the Goverment following my every move.I had a transponder on my boat.I threw it in the ocean,good luck
finding me now Coast Guard !!

Posted by: Manny at August 15, 2009 8:48 PM

"I am with Justin on transponders.I do not want the Goverment following my every move.I had a transponder on my boat.I threw it in the ocean,good luck
finding me now Coast Guard !! "
Manny, I am with you. Good Luck.

Posted by: David at August 15, 2009 9:11 PM

Tom W

My second home is Port Charlotte. Florida is not without its fiscal problems and the state will have to address them. As to pro business attitude, it certainly counts. I've had offices in MA, OK, TX and MN plus RI. Without exception, all have had a better business climate than RI. Not just regs and taxes, attitude.

I've been in business for 32 years and I have never made a living in this state. I'll be happy to stop importing income to RI and paying taxes here, possibly as soon as next year. The many real attractions of the state no longer outweigh the deficits.


There aren't enough tourists and there isn't enough change in population to account for the condition of the roads. It is simply neglect.

Posted by: chuckR at August 16, 2009 10:07 AM

@Will: "There's no way in heck I'm paying $4.00 to cross that. It's not like it's the Brooklyn Bridge." First, a point of fact: the Brooklyn Bridge is owned by NYC DOT (not the MTA, like some other East River crossings) and it is not tolled. And second: the Newport Bridge actually IS quite impressive, though your familiarity with it may dull your appreciation. Out-of-state motorists will most likely be willing to pay $4 to cross the bridge. Bridge traffic will probably not be affected by the toll change.

@Tom W: "Would you expect anything else from the...General Assembly?" Another point of fact: the bridge is not managed by the state but by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA). The GA does not play a role in authorizing toll increases. And second: RITBA bridges (Mt. Hope & Newport Pell) are in considerably better repair than RIDOT bridges, which are not maintained by toll revenue and were and were not too long ago ranked as the most “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete" bridges in the nation (source: I would rather have tolled bridges that are in good repair than underfunded bridges that rank as the nation's worst.

Bottom line: The toll has not increased since the bridge opened in 1969. Inflation-adjusted, the toll was more than $11 in 1969 - meaning today's inflation-adjusted toll is 34 cents. That's quite a drop in price - I'm more than okay with RITBA upping the toll for the first time ever so that it can maintain the bridges.

As for the transponders: Do those of you here who fear their privacy implications also oppose cameras at the tollbooths, which are used to catch toll evaders? Because those can be used to identify all bridge users, as well - and unlike EZ-Pass, they are not opt-in for bridge users

Posted by: Stephen at August 16, 2009 11:26 PM

FYI - The cameras at the toll plaza are not connected - if you evade the toll you just have to pop the gate off and go, no consequences. The RITBA pays for a State Police detail every now and then, and it is obvious when this is being done. Not to condone any illegal activity - rather, this illustrates typical Rhode Island government stupidity...the reason they are not connected was because the state police made the turnpike and bridge authority contact them with the license plate of every toll evader, instead of the cameras automatically recording the plate and having a fine mailed to the person. The RITBA said it wasn't worth the effort (this was before gates were installed - I would think there are fewer evaders now) - alas the cameras are not hooked up. But they do put on a good show!

Posted by: RITBA at August 17, 2009 7:51 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.