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House to Review Tolls, Road Fund on Tuesday

Bill would create infrastructure fund by diverting revenue sources from elsewhere and prevent tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

The House Finance Committee is due to review the issue of tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge on Tuesday as part of its discussions about a recently-submitted bill that would make major changes to how the state funds bridge and road repairs.

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing last week to review a companion bill and it received mostly strong support, but one notable voice of opposition was from the head of the state Department of Transportation, Michael Lewis, who said that the bill is creative and forward-thinking, but "there is no free lunch."

The bills, submitted last month, 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 bill also provides a mechanism to give the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority extra funds through a .1 percent reallocation from the state capital plan fund to RIPTA starting in 2015. That would increase by one tenth of one percent until it gets to .5 percent.

Read our report on the Senate review of the bill HERE.

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