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Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Begins Process to Shut Down the Sakonnet River Bridge Toll

Providence, R.I. — With the signing of the FY 2015 budget, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) joined with Representative John G. Edwards and Senator Louis P. DiPalma to announce the elimination of the toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The Governor has directed Earl "Buddy" Croft III, Executive Director of the Authority, and his staff to shut down the toll. According to Croft, the process will begin early in the morning and should be completed by noon tomorrow (Friday, June 20, 2014).

"I am pleased that a reasonable alternative to tolling has been reached by the General Assembly. We all agree good transportation infrastructure is closely aligned with building a strong economy," Governor Chafee said. "Nobody wants to see another bridge completely replaced – at great cost to taxpayers – because of a lack of maintenance."

"I'm pleased to be able to deliver this excellent news to my constituents alongside my colleague, Senator DiPalma," Representative Edwards said. "I want this to be a shining example of what ordinary people can do when they come together and fight a common enemy. The East Bay business community channeled their voices into one powerful front, and because of that we were able to set a plan into motion that will not only provide for the maintenance of the Sakonnet River Bridge, but all bridges and roads all over the state."

"The removal of the tolls is not just an achievement to be placed on the mantel of the General Assembly," Senator DiPalma said. "The people who came together to organize against the tolls should be truly proud of what they have accomplished. Oftentimes, one specific problem can set off a solution to a much larger, related issue, which is what happened here. Infrastructure plays a crucial role in how attractive our state is to outside businesses, tourists and media. We are confident this will help press the reset button on some of our national rankings and play a crucial role in rebuilding the communities that have suffered the most in the wake of the recession."

The new budget calls for the permanent removal of the Sakonnet River Bridge toll on July 1, 2014, and puts in place a 1-cent gas tax effective July 1, 2015. The tax would be indexed to rise along with inflation every other year to make sure bridge maintenance and other transportation infrastructures receive funding. In addition, the plan also transfers the revenue from 3.5 cents of the state's existing gasoline tax to the RITBA for the operation and maintenance of the bridges in its purview.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) was created in 1954 by the Rhode Island General Assembly as a body corporate and politic, with powers to construct, acquire, maintain and operate bridge projects as defined by law. The Authority has no stockholders or equity holders. It is directed by a five member board of directors, four of whom are appointed by the governor. A trust agreement between the Authority and bondholders requires the former to maintain and operate the bridges in an efficient and economical manner. The Authority is at all times to maintain the bridges in good repair and sound operational condition, and to make all necessary repairs, renewals, and replacements.

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