A special legislative commission looking into funding for East Bay bridges has begun its study. As I indicated when I testified before the commission earlier this month, there are many serious questions and issues that I hope the commission will give serious consideration.
For instance, during my testimony before the commission, I questioned the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority’s latest numbers for bridge maintenance costs on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, since RITBA’s numbers keep changing like the weather. I pointed out that taxpayers and toll payers are paying more for the toll collection system than what RITBA is actually collecting for bridge maintenance. The state gave RITBA a bridge, taxpayers are footing the bill and the authority is sitting back and collecting the cash.
RITBA also indicated that August 23 was the substantial completion date for the bridge and that the 10 cent toll needed to be put into place at that time or there would be dire consequences. It is now the middle of October and the substantial completion date has not yet arrived. DOT Director Lewis has indicated it will now be sometime closer to March, 2014, before they reach the completion date.
There seem to be too many moving targets and very, very little in the way of actual, verifiable, definitive information. As a result, I urged the study commission to request a forensic audit of RITBA because, quite frankly, I do not trust what they are telling us.
I suggested that the commission seriously consider looking at cutting costs within the Department of Transportation. I think it would be more appropriate to cut costs first rather than just figuring out a way to raise revenue and further burden working people with the imposition of a toll.
I told the committee what I have been saying all along – this is not just an East Bay issue. We know that Providence, for instance, has the highest percentage of bridge failures in the state. I think it is time that we have one infrastructure entity – the DOT – and a means of funding maintenance and improvements that is supported by all the citizens of Rhode Island, not just those living on or traveling to and from Aquidneck Island.
Representative – District 71
Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton